In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Ministry of Religious Endowments has refused to issue a permit that would allow a film crew to shoot a scene inside Sayeda Nefeesa mosque, on the grounds that doing so would violate Sharia.
In a press statement released on Wednesday, director Ahmad Abdalla recounts being informed by the ministry’s office director that permits for filming inside mosques would no longer be issued for any production, and that the concept in itself was “generally unacceptable” since “mosques are not film sets.”
The refusal comes as the latest in a series of incidents causing concern over the growing influence of religion on government policy, following a landslide victory by Islamists in elections for both houses of Parliament.
This recent episode is particularly worrying since, as the award-winning director explains to Egypt Independent, “The Ministry of Religious Endowments has no right to decide something like this; it’s not within its authority.”
Traditionally, the Ministry of Religious Endowments is in charge of institutions or buildings that exist to benefit the community. This includes mosques. However, filming permits for mosques have, until now at least, always been issued by other authorities, mainly the Interior Ministry and, in some cases, Al-Azhar — the Islamic world’s ultimate religious authority — before passing through the Ministry of Religious Endowments for a final signature, which, according to Abdalla is “an act of meaningless formality rather than an official gesture. The Ministry of Religious Endowments is not involved in any major capacity — their role is to make sure the paperwork is in order, and that’s it.”
In post-Mubarak Egypt, it seems the lines between certain roles have become increasingly blurred.
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