Egyptian Lawmakers Push for Online Censorship of False Imams

Egypt Parliament

A group of Egyptian lawmakers have come together to push for ratifying measures that would censor unauthorized clerics online, in a move which is being championed for seeing to reign in self-proclaimed religious figures who often spread extremist ideology and edicts.

“A number of deputies will submit urgent requests to take immediate decisions about these online spaces,” a parliamentarian, speaking under the conditions of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“These sites are platforms exploited to address citizens, and promote terrorism,” the official added.

Col. Hatem Abdul Fatah Saber, a counterterrorism expert dubbed as the Unknown Commander, told Asharq Al-Awsat that snipping these ideologues’ online outreach will curb recruitment and radicalization of Egyptian youth.

Egypt remains plagued with impostors posing as Imams on social media and recruiting hardliners on propagating violence and extremism.

These self-declared Imams have been using online and social media platforms to engage their audience, who are mostly Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters and prone to radicalization. They often offer Q&A segments whereby they independently dish out religious fatwas, misleading viewers.

Prominent Egyptian journalist and author Makram Mohammad Ahmed, who is also president of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation (SCMR), had previously reaffirmed that none of the publishing websites linked with Islamist groups has been licensed.

Speaking on regulation measures, Ahmed said that only professional websites will be authorized, not extremism-provoking platforms.

With many sites being managed and operated from abroad, experts highlighted that “since the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, hundreds of the outlawed group’s leaders and supporters fled to other countries, where they were given asylum, and are permitted to continue conspiring against the Egyptian government by working to sway and radicalize the Egyptian public from a distance.”