Alleged Facebook mention in prayer call sparks Egypt outcry

By The Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 31, 2015 at 7:21 a.m.

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CAIRO (AP) — Egyptians in a Nile Delta province were outraged on Sunday after a cleric allegedly changed a line in the traditional Islamic call to prayer to mention Facebook.

Instead of saying "prayer is better than sleep" twice during the dawn prayer, Sheikh Mahmoud Maghazi of Beheira province allegedly said: "Prayer is better than Facebook." The issue drew nationwide attention when he defended himself against shouted accusations on one of Egypt's most-watched television talk shows, called 10 PM.

Talk show hosts play a major role in leading public opinion in Egypt, where a quarter of the population is illiterate.

The Religious Endowments Ministry ordered an investigation after locals complained last week, senior ministry official Mohamed Abdelrazik said. That prompted Maghazi to go on hunger strike and deny that he made the reference.

"I don't know what Facebook is and I don't know how it is spelled," he swore to the silver-haired host, Wael el-Ibrashy. Maghazi went on to charge his accusers with being members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

He said they were trying to remove him from the mosque because he would not allow them to hold protests and organize unlicensed Islamic lessons there.

Mosques have been closely monitored as part of the security crackdown on the Brotherhood and its supporters following the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

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