CAIRO— In a rebuke to the Egyptian government, the top religious scholars of Egypt’s Al-Azhar have rejected new government measures to standardize Friday sermons, saying such a step would “freeze” the development of religious discourse.

The Council of Senior Scholars of Al-Azhar, the Muslim world’s most prominent institution, said in a statement that giving clerics pre-written Friday sermons would eventually “superficialize” religious clerics’ thinking.

The statement claims that, “The Imam will find himself unable to discuss, debate, and respond to (extremist) ideas and warn people of them.”

The standardized sermon initiative was launched by Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments – the government body regulating mosques and houses of worship – and has been criticized as a government move to tighten state control over religious discourse.

Earlier this month, Minister of Religious Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa gave the first-such scripted sermon.