Egyptian Cleric on Hunger Strike After Suspension for ‘Prayer Is Better than Facebook’ Remark

conversion to Islam
AP Photo/Amr Nabil

The Egyptian Religious Endowments Ministry suspended Sheikh Mahmoud Maghazi after he allegedly said, “Prayer is better than Facebook,” during a traditional Islamic prayer. The original line says, “Prayer is better than sleep.”

People expressed anger over the change. Maghazi caused national outrage when he defended himself on popular Egyptian talk show 10 PM.

“I don’t know what Facebook is and I don’t know how it is spelled,” he told host Wael el-Ibrashy.

The accusations drove Maghazi to a hunger strike. He also claimed his accusers are members of the Muslim Brotherhood who want him out of his mosque because he forbids “them to hold protests and organize unlicensed Islamic lessons there.”

“I forbid any group to use the mosque, I forbid unauthorized courses,” he declared.

The ministry launched an investigation after locals complained about the alleged change. Official Sabri Ebada confirmed the suspension.

“The case will be referred to the prosecution service which will see that the law is applied,” he stated.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood after he overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The government recently passed a law that “sets a minimum fine of about $25,000 922,530 euros) and a maximum of about $64,000 for anyone who strays from government statements in publishing reports.” The law includes punishment for a person “to lead or finance” terrorist groups.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) found numerous human rights abuse cases during al-Sisi’s first year in power.

“Over the past year, el-Sissi and his cabinet have provided near total impunity for security force abuses and issued a raft of laws that severely curtailed civil and political rights,” researchers wrote in the report.

Amnesty International reported the government captured and tortured a student who wore an anti-torture T-shirt.

An Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to three years in prison for their alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. They sentenced Australian Peter Greste in absentia since was deported in February. But Mohamed Fahmy and Bahar Mohamed appeared in court together. Both deny the charges.

“It is outrageous,” insisted Greste. “It is simply not true. We spoke to the Muslim Brotherhood, absolutely. But the Brotherhood at the time was not a banned organization. It was banned after we went to prison.”