For British Muslims, religious advice is now just a phone call (or email) away thanks to an Egyptian service which aims to counter the views of Islamic extremists. The BBC reports that the El Hatef, or Islamic Helpline, "set up in Egypt eight years ago to counter radicalism by bringing the minds of the nation's best Islamic scholars to bear on people's doubts and questions about their religion", is launching in the UK, as its backers have "singled out Britain as the country most urgently in need of the service".
Callers can ask any question they like, with many of those who have called the Egyptian version seeking clarification on matters of sex and what is permitted in Islam. Questions are dealt with by scholars at Al Azhar University, one of the world's leading centres for the study of Sunni Islam.
In the BBC video embedded below, a scholar deals with the question of whether there is a conflict between UK law and Sharia law, and what Muslims should do if there is. His answer – that there is no conflict whatsoever – fits in so perfectly with the government's counter-extremism agenda that I briefly wondered if the service had recieved UK government funding to launch over here. It appears it hasn't – which is probably good thing, because, as I found when I looked into the issue for our current cover story, the government has received enough criticism for that agenda as it is, without having to defend funding Egyptian dial-a-cleric hotlines.