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Sisi’s call to annul verbal divorce sparks controversy

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for new legislation to limit verbal divorce, raising the ire of Egyptians who believe the president should prioritize economic issues.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a news conference after holding bilateral talks with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta (not pictured) at the State House in Nairobi, Kenya February 18, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya - RTSZ9SB
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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has raised controversy once again by calling for new legislation to annul verbal divorce in Egypt. During a Jan. 24 ceremony marking National Police Day, Sisi said, “I have asked the head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) about marriages in Egypt. He said 40% of the 900,000 marriage unions this year [will] end up in divorce within five years.”

In July 2016, Sisi had raised the ire of Egyptian citizens and clergy when he issued a decision to introduce a unified written Friday sermon. But with his latest comments, the president crossed a red line by discussing a doctrinal issue. Directing his Jan. 24 speech to Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb, Sisi said, "We need a law to deal with divorce issues before the ‘maazoun’ [a government-authorized cleric who administers marriage and divorce] instead of verbal divorces, so that people will have the time to consider their decision of divorce.” This would mean that divorce could only occur in the presence of a legal maazoun, which many Egyptian religious authorities see as contrary to Islam.

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