Egypt's religious endowments minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said that having pre-prepared Friday sermons is of "legitimate national interest," though he stressed that the "era of silencing people is over."
During a workshop on an integrated vision on the renewal of religious discourse during the Presidential Leadership Programme's (PLP) forum, the minister said that exploiting religious discourse for political and partisan purposes causes severe damage to society, stressing on the necessity of curtailing the efforts of those who would exploit religion.
Last Month, the endowments ministry announced that Muslim clerics will be required to read from a single script prepared by the ministry during the weekly sermon at Friday prayers, a move aimed at promoting moderate Islamic ideology and combating extremism.
"There is no religious source that prohibits a pre-written sermon, and we are in exceptional circumstances," the minister stressed.
He added that some in the country have been quick to reject the idea of a pre-written sermon without knowing the details.
Gomaa highlighted that these sermons would allow for the tackling of various topics throughout the year, adding that there are different programmes for the rehabilitation and preparation of preachers.
However, Egypt's top Islamic body Al-Azhar rejected last Wednesday the decision requiring preachers to read out a standardised, pre-written sermon during Friday services.
The Council of Senior Scholars, headed by Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, said the move amounts to "freezing religious discourse."
The Al-Azhar Mosque did not follow the ministry's standardised sermon last Friday, entitled "Cleanliness is a Civilised Behaviour," and instead gave a sermon on national unity and the rights of Christians in Islam, as announced on Al-Azhar's official website.
The ministry's decision sparked outcry among many clerics earlier this month, who said that scripted sermons would waste an imam's talents and fail to cater to different communities.
The ministry has been setting topics for weekly sermons at Friday prayers across the country since 2014.
Under the Egyptian constitution, the 1,000-year-old seat of Islamic learning Al-Azhar is in charge of regulating Islamic preaching and proselytising, while the endowments ministry is responsible for administering mosques and Islamic centres.