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Egypt scholars OK mosques built by showbiz $

Several actors and singers build their own mosques

As ever more Egyptian showbiz stars seek to build their own mosques, the issue of whether they are tainted by ill-gotten gains or ambiguously Islamic sources of income has come to the forefront.

Egyptian religious scholars have sought to dispel concerns over the legitimacy of mosques owned by actors and singers after a controversial fatwa (religious ruling) banned Muslims from praying in such mosques.

But scholars are now advising Muslims to pray in any mosque since it is the house of God.

The controversy erupted in the wake of the latest addition to showbiz mosques by comedian Mohamed Saad, who recently built his own mosque worth $0.5 million in a working class district of Cairo.

"If anyone else who's not a celebrity had built this mosque, it wouldn't have caused such a fuss," Saad told Al Arabiya, adding that he did not build the mosque for propaganda purposes.

In February of 2007 al-Azhar University professor Dr. Mohamed al-Mosayyar issued a fatwa prohibiting prayer in mosques built by entertainment stars after singer Saad al-Soghayar came under harsh criticism for constructing a mosque.

Now Saad, the actor, did not want to talk about his newly built mosque for fear of facing the same harsh criticism Soghayar received.

Arabic crooner Soghayar lashed out at the harsh criticism he has been subjected to since he built a mosque.

"I can't see how people can stand in the face of the good deeds like that," he told Al Arabiya.

I can't see how people can stand in the face of the good deeds like that

Saad al-Soghayar, Egyptian singer

"That is not why I haven't built the mosque till now," he told Al Arabiya. "Once I decided to do that, no one can stop me."

Another singer, Hamada Hilal, reportedly decided not to build a mosque in the Delta governorate of Sharqiya after the Soghayar incident, although he denied he detracted from his decision to build the mosque for fear of facing opposition.

A former Minister of Religious Endowments, Dr. Ahmadi Abul Nour, told Al Arabiya that people were allowed to pray in entertainers’ mosques "as long as this art does not contradict ethics, or include sexual content, or sow sedition amongst viewers,” since the money earned would be considered “legitimate."

Shocking fatwa

Sheikh Ahmed Abul Hassan said he was surprised by Mosayyar's fatwa and stressed that even if a mosque was built with illegitimate money, people would still be allowed to pray in it.

"The only case when people are not to pray in a mosque is if it is built on stolen land," he told Al Arabiya.

Dr. Souad Saleh, professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at al-Azhar University, told Al Arabiya that whether a mosque is built with legitimate or illegitimate money, it is at the end the house of God and people should fill it with prayers.

"Isn’t this better than closing it or turning it into a night club?" she asked.

Saleh added that if the money earned from singing or acting is considered illegitimate, then building the mosque would be a sort of penance.

"God never lets down those who repent."

Dr. Abdul-Sabour Shahine, a professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, said the legitimacy of the funding was irrelevant since a mosque does not lose its purpose if it is built by a showbiz star.

"A mosque is a place of worship and stays so no matter who builds it," he told Al Arabiya.


(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)