CAIRO: Egypt’s Supreme Media Regulatory Council has issued a list of 50 Muslim scholars who are the only ones allowed to issue fatwas via broadcasters.
Surprisingly, the list did not include many male and female scholars from Al-Azhar who regularly appear on Egyptian broadcasters and host live programs to discuss religious topics and issue edicts. No explanation was given for their exclusion.
The media regulator said the step is aimed at curbing “massive chaos” caused by “unusual religious edicts” issued by imams on satellite channels.
The body’s chair, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, was quoted by local newspapers as saying the list had been prepared after controversy stirred by a fatwa saying men can have sex with their dead wives.
Ahmed said the list, to which more names can be added, was prepared as per a request from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s leading religious authority.
Al-Azhar scholars such as Khalid El-Gendy, Saad El-Dinne El-Hilaly, Soad Saleh, Osama Azhari and Ahmad Kraima were absent from the list despite being famous TV preachers for years.
Ahmed said: “All religious TV programs will continue working as normal to explain religious subjects, but without addressing fatwas on any topic.”
The regulatory body is threatening to punish broadcasters that do not adhere to the list by halting their broadcast and suspending violating presenters.
Sheikh Mohammad El-Shahat El-Gendy, whose name was absent from the list despite being a well-known preacher in Egyptian media, said he “did not take it (the decision) personally.”
He told Arab News: “The move aims to regulate fatwas and protect the public sphere from edicts that had caused outrage and distorted the teachings of Islam.”
He added that there had been previous attempts by Parliament to regulate fatwas in the media, but this new initiative is assigning specific figures for the role.
“I see no problem in identifying names, and I can see that Al-Azhar relied on scholars from the institution and specifically those who studied Shariah (Islamic law).
“It’s not right to make any judgments before we see the performance of the newly selected imams.
“Individuals who are in charge of issuing fatwas should have sufficient knowledge and a thorough understanding of society, and consider how they can be applied to organize the lives of Muslims while maintaining the purposes of Shariah law.”