RELIGION

Egypt standardize Muslim sermons, tightening grip on mosques

  • Egyptian worshippers leave Friday prayers at Amr Ibn al-As mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 15, 2016. The government is promoting the standardized sermons as part of its efforts to reform the religious discourse and curbing extremism. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Egyptian worshippers leave Friday prayers at Amr Ibn al-As mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 15, 2016. The government is promoting the standardized sermons as part of its efforts to reform the religious discourse and curbing extremism. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

  • Mokhtar Gomaa, Egypt's minister of religious endowment, holds a piece of paper and reads out a standardized sermon, which was prepared by the ministry's scholars, at Amr Ibn al-As mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 15, 2016. The government is promoting the standardized sermons as part of its efforts to reform the religious discourse and curbing extremism. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Mokhtar Gomaa, Egypt's minister of religious endowment, holds a piece of paper and reads out a standardized sermon, which was prepared by the ministry's scholars, at Amr Ibn al-As mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 15, 2016. The government is promoting the standardized sermons as part of its efforts to reform the religious discourse and curbing extremism. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

  • Mokhtar Gomaa, Egypt's minister of religious endowments, adjusts his "Emamah," a head cover for Muslim clerics, after he delivered a standardized sermon, which was prepared by the ministry's scholars, at Amr Ibn al-As mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 15, 2016. The government is promoting the standardized sermons as part of its efforts to reform the religious discourse and curbing extremism. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Mokhtar Gomaa, Egypt's minister of religious endowments, adjusts his "Emamah," a head cover for Muslim clerics, after he delivered a standardized sermon, which was prepared by the ministry's scholars, at Amr Ibn al-As mosque, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 15, 2016. The government is promoting the standardized sermons as part of its efforts to reform the religious discourse and curbing extremism. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

Egypt has launched a program of having Muslim clerics read a standardized government-written sermon at Friday prayers, a move by the state to tighten control over religious discourse.

The minister for religious endowments, Mokhtar Gomaa, gave the first such set sermon Friday at Cairo's Amr ibn al-As Mosque. He read from a paper a sermon against corruption, titled, "Bad money is a lethal poison."

Over the past three years, the ministry gave clerics outlines of subjects for their sermons during weekly communal prayers. Now a committee of state-hired scholars will write each week's sermon for clerics to read word-for-word.

Gomaa defended the move as aimed at filtering out extremism and promoting reform. However, critics say it is a new move by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's rule to stifle freedom of expression.