Testing the Salafis

Salafi Madrasa

Who should be allowed to preach in Egypt’s mosques? A recent exam offered by the Ministry of Religious Endowments is accused of seeking a selective answer:

Over the last two months, the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments held two such exams. Many of the questions used are known for being disputed by Salafists, most notably those about the ruling of Islam regarding the military salute, standing during the national anthem, women in the judiciary, the concept of the caliphate, the reconstruction of places of worship for non-Muslims, bank profits, women wearing the veil and the establishment of museums for ancient Egyptian and Pharaonic artifacts. Salafists have well-known and radical opinions about all these issues, as they believe that Islam forbids such things. (from al-Monitor)

An issue-specific approach appears to have won the desired results:

The crisis between the Salafists and the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments escalated when 600 Salafist imams took the ministry’s test and only 18 passed. Their disqualification prompted the Salafist Call to demand that the presidency resolve the crisis and support Salafist imams, who supported the road map on June 30, 2013.

Salafis bet on survival when the backed the overthrow of Morsi, and on this account have received their gains. They do not appear to have profited much beside, to this point. Their ultimate fate is still an open question, but it appears this institution is lined up against them. Should it be? One figure from the ministry is critical:

In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Sheikh Salem Abdul Jalil, the former deputy minister of Religious Endowments, said the crisis is mostly political, as parliamentary elections are approaching in Egypt. The move is intended to ensure that Salafist clerics are kept away from the pulpits where they win popularity. “Salafist groups have always been a problem for the government, just like the Muslim Brotherhood,” he added.


“Unfortunately, both parties have a unilateral message. For instance, the Ministry of Religious Endowments wants the preachers to tell the people that growing a beard is not obligatory, while Salafists want to tell people that having a beard is obligatory. Thus, there are two parties — the first desperately wants to impose its views, and the other is a government party that has no vision and ideology.”

Stay tuned for more wrestling, and if things go sour, potentially for fireworks.

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