‘Better than Facebook!’ Egyptian cleric suspended for altering dawn prayer call

© Cris Bouoncle
Egyptian religious authorities have suspended a muezzin from Beheira province from duty after local villagers accused the religious figure of intoning “prayer is better than Facebook” in his early morning call for prayer.

Mahmud al-Moghazi, who has denied uttering those words, stands accused of referencing Facebook twice during the dawn prayer last week, changing the verse which originally says “prayer is better than sleep.”

After being refereed by the local villagers to the Ministry of Awqaf, or religious affairs, the clerics body confirmed Moghazi’s suspension.

“The case will be referred to the prosecution service which will see that the law is applied,” Ministry official Sabri Ebada told AFP.

As the ministry continues their investigation, Moghazi denounced the accusations as “lies” during his appearance in one of country’s talk shows on Sunday. With 16 million users, Egypt is one of the world’s top 20 Facebook-engaged societies, but muezzin denied even knowing how this word is spelled.

“I don't know what Facebook is and I don't know how it is spelled,” he swore, blaming the banned Muslim Brotherhood followers of plotting to discredit him. He accused the group of trying to hold protests and organize unlicensed Islamic lessons at the local mosque.

The muezzin claimed that the Brotherhood wanted to get him “out of the mosque,” adding that he had begun a hunger strike in protest against his treatment. “I forbid any group to use the mosque, I forbid unauthorized courses,” he said.

The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization by the Egyptian state months after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi’s toppling by the army in 2013. The group members have faced a multitude of terror-related charges and convictions ever since.