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From the holy to the mundane

By Ramadan A. Kader

A religious singer has recently triggered a viral uproar in the media for using unorthodox lyrics at a mosque ceremony. Sheikh Tareq Abdul Rahman appeared in a video purportedly showing him while performing at a mosque in the northern province of Sharqia.

He is seen in the video chanting, saying: “We are the children seeking divine support. We are the devotees to the Prophet Mohammed [peace be upon him]. Among us, there are alcohol drinkers and hashish smokers!”

The lyrics were deemed inappropriate and unbecoming of a religious singer. Abdul Rahman came under scathing criticism that prompted him shortly later to release a Facebook video in which he attempted to play down the furore. He said that his song was taken out of its context and misunderstood.

“Alcohol refers to the alcohols of the paradise; while hashish smokers are an expression that originally means in classic Arabic making use of time,” he explained. “These are established Sufi meanings. I did not mean the offensive meanings related to sins.”

Despite his apologetic argument, Abdul Rahman was referred to a disciplinary board by the Ministry of Waqfs, which is in charge of mosques in Egypt. “He faces the maximum penalty,” said Gaber Taya, a senior official at the ministry.

He added that the embattled panegyrist may be barred from having his religious chants broadcast on the state radio.

Religious hymns are popular at festivals annually held in Egypt to celebrate saints’ birthdays.