Popular Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled is at the center of a controversy over an episode on his popular Quran program that discussed the story of Moses and allegedly linked it to current events and aroused sympathy for Jews.
In the program Min Qasas al-Quran (Stories of the Quran), which has aired on several satellite channels since Ramadan began, Khaled discussed how the Pharaohs slayed male Jews during the time of Moses.
The famous preacher prepared the story earlier this year and posted it on his website in May with questions that he asked visitors to respond to.
"Think about these questions," he wrote on the website. "You will not find their answers in any book. They just need brains and imagination."
Among the questions posted were those asking: Why did the Pharaoh order male Jews to be killed? What do you think was Moses’ political goal? Was it saving the Israelites or talking the Pharaoh into believing in God? Why didn't Moses call upon Egyptians to join his faith?
The responses were remarkable because the majority linked the story of Moses to the current political situation in Egypt and viewed it as an incentive to rebel against repressive leaders.
Khaled's Egypt departure
The Moses story is believed to be one of the main reasons why Khaled was rumored to have been forced to leave Egypt in June.
The website discussion was not welcome by state officials, unnamed security sources told Al Arabiya.
A report by a state security officer about Khaled alleged the story was a means of arousing sympathy for Jews as well as attacking the Egyptian government.
Report 314 also referred to Khaled's other program al-Insan (The Human Being), which tackles difficult issues in poor villages and launches campaigns to assist residents by building them new houses.
The initiative was regarded as a rival to the Alf Qaria (A thousand villages) project, sponsored by Gamal Mubarak, the Egyptian president's son. The report was then submitted to the Minister of Interior and Khaled was asked to tone down his activities. When he did not, he left for London.
Dr. Mohamed Fathi, a journalist and one of Khaled's closest friends, denied allegations that the Ministry of Interior was involved in Khaled's departure and stressed that he intended to return to Egypt during Ramadan.
"He is currently in Saudi Arabia performing the Lesser Pilgrimage," he told Al Arabiya. "He will also fly to the UAE to take part in the international Quran competition then come to Egypt."
Not a Jew sympathizer
Fathi denied that Khaled sympathized with the Jews.
"The program lashes out at Israeli policies, and this will be made clear in the next episodes. There is one episode about al-Aqsa Mosque and how Israelis do not have the right to claim it and another about the way Jews started sneaking into Arab land."
As for political connotations, Fathi stressed that Khaled's program has nothing to do with the current political situation in Egypt.
"This is a religious program and the story was mentioned in the Quran. It is just that Moses was sent by God to resist oppression," he explained.
Fathi pointed out that Khaled uses the latest technology in his program and has thus initiated a significant change on religious shows and stated that the program has received some of the highest viewer rates.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)