British Muslims get ‘dial-a-sheikh’ helpline from Egypt

The world’s most popular Islamic hotline, the Egyptian based ‘dial-a-sheikh’, is launching in Britain to help the nation’s 1.6 million Muslims deal with everyday dilemmas. At just 75 pence a minute, British Muslims will be able to access scholars from Egypt’s al-Azhar University through al-Hatef al-Islami helpline where they can call in and seek help with their daily problems.

Callers will be able to speak to a sheikh, who is authorized to issue a fatwa, about their problems and expect to receive an answer, using a pin code, within the next 48 hours of the call. The facility also includes email advice sent in English, Arabic and Urdu.

“With one-third of the U.K.’s Muslims under 16, there’s a need to assist in delivering credible and authoritative Islamic advice”, al-Hatef al-Islami’s founder, Cherif Abdel Meguid, says. Yet some scholars in Britain, who welcomed the initiative, nonetheless worried that fatwas and advice from sheikhs not based in Europe may lack the necessary cultural knowledge and understanding of European society and the challenges particular to the British context.