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Egypt bans prayer at mosque over Obama visit

Muslim Brotherhood complains to parliament over prayer ban

Rumors that Muslims could no longer pray at Sultan Hassan mosque after security forces cordoned off the mosquei n preparation for U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Cairo Thursday sparked outrage from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood even as the mosque denied them.

Muslim Brotherhood members complained to parliament about the Grand Imam, minister of interior and prime minister for banning the faithful from praying.

But mosque officials said the mosque was only under renovation and the faithful could still pray there.

"This (restricting faithful from praying at mosque) is impermissible in Shariah," brotherhood member, Muhsen Radi, told Al Arabiya. "Egypt's security service has cordoned the whole area around the mosque and has told businesses nearby to close on Wednesday and Thursday."

The mosque, a historical mosques that dates back to 1348 A.D., is reportedly on Obama's itinerary for his Cairo trip, which will commence in the early afternoon this coming Thursday, following the president's speech at Cairo University and his visit to the American embassy.

Radi said ordering businesses to close was bound to have adverse affects on the poor people around the mosque and demanded that Tantawi, Grand imam and head of Azhar who will chaperone Obama, issue a statement explaining the legal opinion behind banning prayer.

Egypt's security service has cordoned the whole area around the mosque and has told businesses nearby to close on Wednesday and Thursday

Muslim Brotherhood

Pure rumors

Meanwhile, the head of al-Sultan Hassan mosque was shocked to hear of Radi's complaint and said the faithful would still be allowed to pray in the mosque.

"These are pure rumors!" Saeed Helmi told Al Arabiya. "No mosque can ever be closed to prayer."

Helmi explained that the current renovations taking place at the mosque would not hamper daily prayer.

"We called in the statement that Sheikh al-Azhar issued a statement explaining the legal opinion on preventing prayers in the mosques and we also request clarification from the Egyptian interior minister to explain his position on the matter," Radi said.

Extensive preparations, most of which involve security measures cordoning major sites and cutting off major traffic ways, are taking place in Cairo in anticipation of Obama's eight hour visit.

These are pure rumors...No mosque can ever be closed to prayer

Saeed Helmi