Cairo: Egyptian authorities have ordered investigations on two religious officials in a Delta province after a Salafist Muslim cleric purportedly urged Egyptian and Liverpool footballer Mohammad Salah to atone for “sinful” professionalism, sources said on Wednesday.
An audio recording this week went viral in the Egyptian media in which the ultra-conservative cleric identified as Hesham Al Baili is allegedly heard lashing out at Salah during a sermon at a mosque in the province of Kafr Al Shaikh.
When asked if the Muslim player was an “ambassador of Islam” in the West, Al Baili purportedly said: “He does not represent Islam and must atone.”
Salah was instrumental in Egypt’s qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a 28-year hiatus.
In the recording, Al Baili purportedly says Salah’s customary prostration following each goal he scores is an un-Islamic act.
“He has to quit playing and give up this sin. If he wants to represent Islam, he can represent it by learning Islamic deeds and preach for Allah Almighty,” the cleric adds in the alleged recording.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is in charge of mosques in Egypt, has said two of its officials in Kafr Al Shaikh will be interrogated over the incident.
“The ministry will not accept such statements that violate its course of spreading moderate Islam,” spokesman for the ministry Jaber Tayah said in a statement.
He added the ministry will file a legal complaint against Al Baili for delivering mosque sermons without a licence.
Tayah called Salah a “potent symbol” of Egyptian sports.
Salah, 25, is widely regarded as a hero in his homeland and news about him is a daily staple in the Egyptian media.
Egyptian authorities have tightened control on mosques nationwide since the army’s 2013 overthrow of president Mohammad Mursi of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood following enormous protests against his rule.
The control has deprived the Brotherhood and its loyalists of a main forum to influence ordinary Muslims.
However, unlicensed clerics are believed to still have access to small mosques in rural areas.