The curious case of Egypt’s banned preacher Mohamed Gibril
Mohamed Gibril dedicated just under half the 40-minute sermon to 'corrupt politicians who divided the Egyptian people'
“May God avenge us on those who spilt our blood and orphaned our children… May God avenge us on corrupt politicians, those who oppressed us, violated the sanctity of our homes… May God avenge us on tyrants and despots,” said preacher Mohamed Gibril in the sermon he delivered at a Cairo mosque in the last week of the holy month of Ramadan.
Gibril dedicated just under half the 40-minute sermon to “corrupt politicians who divided the Egyptian people,” and particularly those “who killed youths in the squares” and “imprisoned thousands unjustly.”
He pleaded with God to help the families of martyrs, detainees and exiles. Gibril cried while reciting the supplication, and a large number of worshippers followed suit as they repeated: “Amen.” Shortly after, Gibril was banned from preaching in Egypt, then banned from leaving the country.
“We’ll never allow places of worship to be used for political purposes,” said Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, who decreed the ban against Gibril. “Mixing politics with religion has inflicted a lot of harm on the country, and we need to make sure this never happens again.”
Gomaa equated Gibril’s sermon with the previous use of mosques for electoral campaigning by the Muslim Brotherhood, and said the ministry would monitor mosques across Egypt and take serious measures against any that allow political talk during sermons.
“The ministry will request that Egyptian TV doesn’t broadcast any of Gibril’s sermons, and that no Arab country or no country at war with terrorism allows him to preach at its mosques. We won’t give him another chance to emotionally manipulate the people,” Gomaa said, adding that anyone proven to help Gibril deliver sermons or give religious lessons would be penalized.
The ministry filed a complaint against Gibril, accusing him of “supporting extremism” and citing his use of expressions previously used by Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, such as comparing government officials and pro-government journalists to “the pharaoh’s sorcerers.”
Mohamed al-Shahat al-Guindi, a member of the Islamic Center for Research, said Gibril was serving the Brotherhood’s agenda, even if unintentionally. “Instead of calling upon the Egyptians to unite, he’s turning them against each other through inciting supplications,” he said. “This is exactly what the Muslim Brotherhood wants: to see Egyptians divided.” Guindi said the Brotherhood also took advantage of the incident to attack the regime. “Now they’re saying the Egyptian state is persecuting religious figures, and this isn’t true.”
Salafi Sheikh Mohamed Saeid Raslan said whoever attacked the Egyptian state was a “traitor,” and this applied to Gibril. “If you find a preacher attacking the state, then be sure he has a hidden agenda and wants to incite sedition among the people,” he said, adding that worshippers who responded to Gibril were also traitors because they support his scheme.
Raslan accused Gibril of ingratitude since he attacked the very government that gave him the opportunity to become a renowned preacher. “How did he get to preach at the first mosque in the African continent?” Raslan asked, referring to Amr Ibn al-Aas Mosque in Egypt’s old capital Fustat. “Is that how he repays the state that raised him to this rank?”
TV anchor Tamer Amin said Gibril’s penalty was in no way equal to his offense. “Yes, he made a mistake when he mixed religion with politics, but it was enough to suspend him or refer him to a disciplinary committee. Banning him from traveling is taking it a little too far,” Amin said, adding that Gibril’s offense was administrative, not criminal. “This way the state isn’t abiding by the law, and is only demonstrating that opposition won’t be tolerated.”
Journalist Reda Hamouda said Gibril’s punishment was part of a plan by the state to eliminate all Islamist voices, which he argued constitute the main opposition bloc against the current government. “This is despite the fact that this same regime came to power through opposition,” Hamouda wrote. “It looks as if the regime is worried that what it did to its predecessor would be done to it if it does not eliminate voices of dissent.”
While agreeing that Gibril had an agenda when he included politics in his sermon, journalist Emad al-Din Hussein criticized the state for its reaction. “Through its exaggerated response, the state made a sermon heard by a few people the talk of the town, and made a hero out of Gibril,” he wrote. “If he belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, then this is the best propaganda ever for them.”
Hussein said the state looked extremely insecure when it took such extreme measures without tangible proof of who Gibril meant in his sermon. “The question that inevitably poses itself now is: Why was the state infuriated with a preacher who prays to God against tyrants?”
Political activist Gamal Eid sarcastically responded to the measures against Gibril with a counter-supplication: “May God grant tyrants victory and endow despots with strength. May God avenge us on those who seek justice and strike the insightful with blindness and cast his fury upon supporters of democracy.”
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