Friday Prayers for Egypt: Preaching, Sinai

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Rarely do men try to speak in your name, but there are many burdened to represent what they believe you have spoken. Now, in Egypt, some of these will be denied.

Give them wisdom in responding to this development.

The government has taken new steps to ensure only licensed imams may preach on Friday. They are also preparing to close the small neighborhood mosques which populate most city streets. They feel this combination is ripe for extremist messaging. Others complain it is only extremist in rejection of a current military order.

Likely, both arguments have merit. The Azhar, the centuries old mosque and institute of learning, is a state-backed organization with a history of moderation. Often, the vitriol issued against Copts, Israel, the West, or the Egyptian establishment come from self-studied scholars specializing in Wahhabi thought. That is, if they specialize at all.

But, at times Azhar scholars have either veered off course or played sycophant to the state. And many a self-studied scholar deserves full respect for dedication and erudition.

The new proclamation ensures that all stay within bounds and on message. Part of that message, admitted openly, is to keep politics out of the mosque.

Oh how dangerous, God, are both sides of this coin. Government restricting religion displays empty hypocrisy. Religion seeking government invites empty hypocrisy.

But the argument is fair that the government should protect against incitement to hate and violence. And the role of religion in holding government accountable is worthy of every argument.

Of course, will the government enforce its ruling at all? Is it able to?

God, give discernment to Egypt’s preachers in all religions. Help them to lead the people toward peace, mercy, and righteousness.

Help them to see the injustices in the land, and to speak powerfully against them.

Help them to pray for those who lead the nation, that they might encourage all the above.

Many, God, are sincere but misguided in their ministries. Lead them to the right path. And some, God, manipulate freely and willfully. Rebuke them; silence them if necessary.

But it is not just the now-non-Islamist government that seeks to corral preachers. Pro-Brotherhood Hamas is doing the same, asking imams to tone down their criticism of Egypt. Poor relations with Cairo choke the economic life of Gaza.

As Egypt battles terrorism in the Sinai, it has also moved to close the expansive network of tunnels into Gaza. The transfer point for drugs, weapons, and jihadists, the tunnels also are Palestinians’ black market for everything from basic supplies to luxury goods. Many get rich off the trade.

Here, God, there is much to pray for. Eliminate the threat of those who will use wanton violence to achieve their ends. Hold back those tempted to inflate or exploit this threat. Bring real equity and prosperity to Sinai to curb the attraction of smuggling. And establish peace between Israel and Palestine so that borders may be opened and tunnels obviated.

God, in the desert or elsewhere, may preachers handle your will correctly. Lead them, for the sake of all.



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