Egypt standardize Muslim sermons, tightening grip on mosques

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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.