CAIRO: Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, has set up booths in Cairo metro stations to provide religious edicts to commuters.
The move is the latest bid to dispel religious misconceptions and misinterpretations of religious texts seen as fostering Islamist militancy in the country, which is targeting mainly security personnel and Copts.
The move comes after militants killed at least 28 security personnel in two separate attacks earlier in July in the restive Sinai Peninsula and near some of Egypt’s most famous pyramids outside Cairo, and more than 100 Coptic Christians since December in four separate attacks.
Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy said in a statement issued Thursday that it launched the project as part of the institution’s efforts to correct misconceptions and radical ideologies. Photos of Al-Azhar preachers manning the booths and engaging with commuters circulated on social media networks.
But Gamal Eid, director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the move, saying other measures should be taken to confront terrorism like fighting corruption and oppression.
“I don’t think these booths will confront terrorism,” Eid said. “This measure is not a priority.”
Mohieddine Afifi, the academy’s secretary-general, slammed critical remarks, saying that what Al-Azhar is doing serves the interests of the nation and its citizens.
“Who will face the violent currents and protect the nation and citizens from their edicts?”
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly blamed what he believes to be outdated religious discourse for rising Islamist militancy and has called for the “modernization of religious discourse” since he took office in 2014. The violence has been concentrated in the northern Sinai Peninsula, but it has also spread to the mainland, including the capital, Cairo.