Egypt's Top Cleric Issues Fatwa Against Buying Facebook Likes

Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, attends a meeting with the mayor of Rotterdam on April 21, 2015, in Rotterdam. The cleric has recently weighed in on improper uses of Facebook and whether cryptocurrency is immoral. Remko De Waal/AFP/Getty Images

Egypt's top authority on Islamic law has condemned the buying social media followers and likes, decrying the act as deceptive and religiously "immoral."

Shawki Allam, the North African country's Grand Mufti, criticized the practice of purchasing engagement on Facebook as an act of "fraud," that goes against Islamic principles. Far from going after the general use of the social media platform, however, Allam suggested permitted ways to do business on Facebook and even made the announcement via the platform itself.

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Writing on the page of Dar al-Ifta, the religious institution tasked with interpreting scripture for Sunni Muslims in Egypt, Allam warned that what distinguishes improper behavior online is when a user engages in "deceptive" social media posts. Boosting content on your account to get a wider audience was permissible, as long as the post reflects reality, Allam argued. What is not acceptable is passing off mercenary interactions, such as bought likes or comments from fake accounts, as genuine engagement, because this is seeks to use dishonesty for building up followers.

"If likes are fake, or electronically generated, and do not resemble real individuals, then that would be considered impermissible given that it's a form of fraud," Allam wrote on Facebook, according to a Washington Post translation from Arabic.

Part of the mufti's job is to interpret the Quran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad to address everyday quandaries, including appropriate behaviour on the internet. Earlier this month, Egypt's top Islamic body called for a ban on the social media game Blue Whale, after national media blamed the game for youth suicides. The competition consists of 50 challenges, set by an organizer on social media, which get progressively violent and end in suicide.

The Grand Mufti has also weighed in on the cryptocurrency craze , slamming it earlier this year as tantamount to gambling.

Allam announced in January, just months after Egypt's first public exchange was launched, that purchasing bitcoin or any other similar currency carried risks of "fraudulence, lack of knowledge, and cheating." He issued a fatwa, banning the practice, and one of his advisers has been quoted as saying cryptocurrency is used to directly fund terrorism.