Top News: Sisi Says Al-Azhar Has Failed to Renew Islamic Discourse

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has accused Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and other clerics of failing to develop Egypt’s religious discourse. “You are the one responsible for religious discourse, and God will ask me whether I am satisfied [with your performance] or not,” Sisi said of Tayeb on Tuesday. “The role of clerics is not to give speeches in mosques, but to spread peace among humanity,” Sisi added. “At last year’s ceremony, when I tackled the idea of a religious revolution, I didn’t mean imposing [change through] violent actions, rather I meant to revolutionize our thoughts in order to make them to fit the time and also to improve the image of Islam.” The president also renewed a pledge to hold parliamentary elections before the end of this year. He called for caution when transmitting news and information, saying that accuracy must be ensured to preserve the high spirits of citizens, as well as security and military personnel. Sisi defended laws he recently passed, saying they aim to achieve the will of the Egyptians, granting immunity to the state, and preserving its position and its institutions. He also said they aim to prevent schemes aimed at discouraging citizens and shaking the stability of the country. Among those laws is a decree which allows the president to dismiss heads and members of independent bodies and regulatory authorities. The Democratic Coalition, which contains eight liberal and leftist parties, rejected the decree and called on Sisi to withdraw it. [DNE, Ahram Online, 7/15/2015]

Egypt’s military court acquits twenty-three Morsi supporters
A Cairo military court acquitted twenty-three Morsi supporters on charges of illegal protesting and riots on Tuesday. The twenty-three Morsi supporters were arrested during a protest in the Roxi area of Heliopolis in 2014. The defendants were accused of illegal protesting, rioting, assaulting security personnel, and blocking traffic. [Ahram Online, 7/15/2015]  

Egypt prosecution appeals release of police officer accused of shooting lawyer
The general prosecution has appealed against the release of a police officer accused of shooting a lawyer. The appeal was made after a Cairo court decided to release the officer without bail pending further investigations. The officer will remain in detention until a decision is made on the appeal. Lawyer Mohamed al-Gamal has been hospitalized since he was shot on Saturday by a policeman, whose identity has not been disclosed. The incident reportedly includes the policeman and a prosecution secretary who engaged in an altercation with Gamal. A judge was initially tasked with investigating the case, as the Lawyers’ Syndicate said the prosecution would not be a neutral investigator because it is “a party to the incident.” The public prosecution is still investigating the incident, which means the police officer could be summoned again for questioning. [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, 7/15/2015]   

Three Copts face charges for giving Muslims dates to break fast  
Three Christians were detained in Alexandria on Monday and forced to pay bail of EGP 10,000 each on charges of insulting Islam and proselytizing. One of the men had been distributing dates when, according to Ishak Ibrahim, Freedom of Belief Officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a Muslim man found a Christian message placed inside the packaging offensive and took the young man to a police officer, who remanded him in custody. When two friends went to the police station to help their friend, they were detained as well.  All three of them were taken to the Montaza police station, where their phones and identification cards were confiscated. They were detained for several hours before they were taken to the prosecution. Ishak says they were charged with insulting Islam, which is illegal under Egyptian blasphemy laws. Eventually, the three men were released on bail, but according to Ishak, the case is still open and they could be called to trial if the Prosecutor General demands it. [DNE, Mada Masr, 7/14/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Attack on Luxor tourist site referred to State Security prosecutors | Aswat Masriya

Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s banking system’s outlook to stable
Moody’s Investors Service says it has upgraded Egypt’s banking system outlook to stable from negative, expecting the sector’s operating conditions to improve as economic growth accelerates and the government pushes through with economic reforms. In a statement on Wednesday, the credit rating agency said it expects Egypt’s economy to expand 5 percent in the fiscal year ending June 2016 as a result of “large, government-led infrastructure projects, increased foreign investment, and a rise in tourism.” Moody’s said it expects economic reforms to lead to rising consumer confidence and more business investments, which would increase loan growth from banks. [AP, 7/15/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s investment minister cites upward trend in economic indicators | DNE
  • Wheat strategic reserves cover Egypt’s needs until mid-February | Egypt Independent
  • Investor: 60 percent of hotel guests in Eid al-Fitr are Egyptians | Egypt Independent
  • Official: Egyptian telecommunications market not saturated, annual profits between 35 percent and 40 percent | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian Businessmen Association calls for suspending cotton import ban | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian stock market lifted after Greece bailout deal | Aswat Masriya

Imam banned after invoking the ruin of ‘corrupt’ media
Popular Imam Sheikh Mohamed Gibril, who, for years, used to lead a congregation of thousands in prayer during the holy month of Ramadan has been banned by the government for praying for the doom of “corrupt media and rulers.” Gibril “violated the ministry’s instructions” during his supplication and attempted to “politically employ the prayers and played on the public’s sentiments,” the ministry said in a statement. It accused him of seeking “personal and political gain at the expense of religion.” The ministry vowed to take “strict measures” against whomever allows Gibril to lead a prayer. Ahmed Moussa, from the satellite channel Sada al-Balad and one of the most fervent, outspoken backers of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, took the supplications as a direct hit against him and his colleagues, as well as the incumbent government. “Mohamed Gibril is praying to God against us,” Moussa said on his show Tuesday, pointing to what he described as Muslim Brotherhood-linked websites’ “jubilation” over his supplications. “Gibril acted as the mouthpiece for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood,” Moussa added. [Egypt Independent, 7/15/2015]

Also of Interest

Suspected suicide bomber killed near military base says Egyptian Army
In a statement on Wednesday, the armed forces said it had killed a suspected suicide bomber on the Qattameya-Suez road. He was on his way to a military base to detonate the bomb, the statement added. The car was reportedly detonated near a checkpoint. Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, the Sinai State, previously known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the attack. The militant group posted photos of what it said was the attack, saying it caused “big losses” among the armed forces. The authenticity of Sinai State’s statement and photos could not be verified. Meanwhile, twenty militants were also killed and twenty-five injured as security forces repelled an attack on a checkpoint in North Sinai on Wednesday, according to Aswat Masriya. A mortar shell also reportedly targeted a military vehicle in Sheikh Zuweid late Tuesday, killing one military personnel, military sources said. According to separate reports from the state news agency, MENA, seven militants were killed and thirteen arrested in raids on Tuesday in Sheikh Zuweid. Finally, Egypt’s cabinet decided on Tuesday to shorten the curfew hours imposed in North Sinai to allow residents to perform Eid al-Fitr prayers on time, state-owned MENA reported. According to MENA, the curfew will be decreased for one hour only next Friday, ending at 5 am instead of 6 am in the North Sinai governorate. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 7/15/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Six injured while bomb defused in Fayoum | Ahram Online
  • Bedouins drawn into Egypt’s Islamist fight | Reuters
  • Cairo security authorities develop plan for Eid al-Fitr | Egypt Independent  

Egypt renews call for a WMD-free Middle East following Iran deal
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes that the nuclear deal signed by six leading world powers and Iran earlier Tuesday will put an end to the arms race in the region and help to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in the Middle East. In a short statement issued on its official Facebook page, the foreign ministry said it “hopes the deal would prevent an arms race in the Middle East, clear it from any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and lead to peace and stability in the region.” [Ahram Online, Reuters, SIS, 7/14/2015]

German embassy closed over car bomb threats
Security sources and other German embassy sources in Cairo have said embassy officials decided to close the embassy Tuesday after receiving threats that it was the target of a car bomb, like that of the Italian consulate last Saturday. Embassy sources also said that they demanded further security measures around the embassy. An Interior Ministry source said the ministry was notified of the German embassy’s closure. The ministry will communicate with the embassy to find out the nature of the threats and how serious they are, especially considering the ministry did not perceive any threats to the embassy. Another security source said the embassy might have resorted to such an action in order to tighten security around its headquarters. Seven false tips about suspected car bombs outside embassies and the houses of judges were reported to the police Tuesday. [Egypt Independent, 7/15/2015]