Muslim Brotherhood supporters at Cairo rally
Muslim Brotherhood supporters at Cairo rally Reuters

The Egyptian government has stepped up a campaign to curb Muslim Brotherhood influence over mosques, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The government said it has licensed more than 17,000 state-approved clerics to give Friday sermons to stop places of worship from falling “into the hands of extremists,” according to the report.

The military-backed authorities have been trying to bring mosques under tighter control since the army toppled Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood last July.

All of the newly-approved clerics have been trained at Al-Azhar University, which is a respected center of Sunni Islamic learning, and institutions run by the ministry of religious endowments, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office on Thursday.

“That is to strengthen the ministry’s supervision over all Egypt’s mosques so that they do not fall into the hands of extremists and the unqualified” and to prevent mosques being used for “party or sectarian” purposes, it said, according to Reuters.

Last September, the religious endowments minister said unlicensed clerics would be barred from delivering sermons at mosques - long a recruiting ground for Islamist parties.

The government statement said the ministry of religious endowments had taken “a big step” towards addressing a shortfall in “qualified preachers.”

Since Morsi’s ouster, more than 1,400 people have died in street clashes and thousands have been imprisoned. 

Hundreds of Islamists have been placed on trial and some already given death sentences, a move which was criticized by the international community.

In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the army-led government.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)