Egypt cleric ruffles feathers with chicken ad

A file photo of famous Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled.

Cairo: Influential Egyptian TV preacher Amr Khalid has drawn sharp criticism and mockery for suggesting in an online advertisement that eating a particular type of chicken can bring about spiritual purity.

The 50-year-old preacher, who has a wide following across the Arab region, recently posted a video on his Facebook page promoting the Saudi chicken product. In the contested ad, Khalid appears with Moroccan chef Asia Othman.

“The soul will not be sublime unless your body and stomach feel right,” Khalid said in the commercial, addressing potential customers. “God willing, you’ll come closer to Allah after the iftar meal with Asia’s recipes,” he added.

Critics have accused Khalid of manipulating religious feelings and his clerical influence to promote the product.

“His exploitation of religion to tout a commodity does not differ from terrorist groups’ exploitation of Islam to promote their objectives in destroying societies,” famous Egyptian TV anchor Wael Al Ebrashi has said on Dream television. Al Ebrashi called Khalid’s ad appearance “sinful” and “misleading”.

“Does his message mean that if I didn’t eat this chicken, my Islam and fasting would be incomplete?” he asked sarcastically.

The private Egyptian newspaper Al Youm Al Saba on Sunday carried a front-page headline: Amr Khalid from trade in religion to chicken trade.

Khalid’s video drew fire on social media too.

“I want an apology from Amr Khalid because he made me one day trust him,” said a woman called Ola Osman in a Facebook post.

“I also want to make a personal apology because I used to go to the farthest place in order to attend his preaching lessons.”

Some cynics dubbed him Chef Khalid.

The controversial video was soon removed from Khalid’s Facebook page. In a video statement released on Sunday, Khalid made an implicit apology. “My talk was understood that I was exploiting religion to promote a product. This is an unacceptable mistake to which I ask Allah for forgiveness,” he said. “I will not say that my words were taken out of the context because I bear full responsibility for this mistake.”

A business administration graduate, Khalid launched his career as a preacher some 20 years ago. He has since become widely popular with young Muslims due to his simple style of preaching. Unlike traditional preachers, he delivers his TV sermons, clad in Western-style attires.

In 2002, he left Egypt for three years allegedly as a result of harassment from the regime of then president Hosni Mubarak over his popularity.

After the 2011 popular revolt that ousted Mubarak, Khalid dabbled in politics and set up the Egypt Party, a move that he later called a “mistake”.

Since the 2013 overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood following mass protests against its rule, Khalid has become the target of criticism in the pro-government media amid suggestions that he is linked to the banned Islamist group, an accusation he denies.

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