Lamis El Hadidy, the Egyptian talk show presenter, has rejected nationwide criticism following an episode of her popular programme Kelma Akhira in which she mentioned the possibility of Muslims performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage through virtual technology.
On Monday’s show, El Hadidy blamed media outlets funded by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group for sparking criticism of her on Egyptian social media channels.
“I will not accept the distortion of my faith, nor will I allow myself to be blackmailed by such misguided people,” El Hadidy said in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. “I knew this would happen.”
She said her initial segment, which aired on June 24, did not begin appearing online until a week later on June 30, a national holiday to mark the removal of former president and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 uprising led by the country's armed forces.
“On June 30, the brotherhood decided to send me their well wishes, which is something I was expecting,” said El Hadidy sarcastically during Monday’s episode.
One Twitter user wrote: "This is the height of insanity. She has got to be punished for this. Where is Al Azhar, where are Islam's scholars? Her comments prove that she has not read anything about Hajj rituals."
Another user named Azza asked El Hadidy: "Lamis there are questions you ask and questions you just don't ask. Could you not think of a better topic to talk about?"
During the segment in question, El Hadidy also said: “A lot of young people might be wondering why they have to go and walk around the Kaaba if they can do it online.”
El Hadidy said on Monday's show she had been criticised for her use of the word “walk” from people who felt that phrasing it that way divorces the act from its spiritual significance.
She said the reason she had used that word was that many younger viewers who sent her messages had also used it.
Defending the broadcast, she said her words had been misconstrued by many media outlets and she intended to open up a philosophical discussion with her guest, an Al Azhar University scholar.
She singled out Rassd, a popular anti-government outlet, which she said is funded by the Brotherhood. She also showed news clippings from BBC and CNN covering the controversy.
Rassd on Sunday issued an official apology to El Hadidy for “misquoting” her.
However, despite the criticism, many others, including talk show host Osama Gaweesh, who was formerly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, came to El Hadidy's defence.
Fathy Abou Hatab, the former general manager of one of Egypt's most-read daily newspapers Al Masry Al Youm, defended everyone's right to ask questions in a tweet on Monday in which he defended El Hadidy.
He wrote: "Whether it is related to Lamis El Hadidy or other media figures, we should not be disturbed by asking questions, even if they belong to a limited segment of society."