CAIRO – Religious authorities in Egypt have issued a non-binding Islamic edict, or fatwa, prohibiting the possession or sale of Bitcoin, stating that the cryptocurrency’s speculative nature and high price volatility resemble betting, and it can facilitate the financing of terrorism, state media reported on Monday.
The fatwa was issued by Egypt’s highest religious authority, the Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, and equated dealing with the popular cryptocurrency to gambling, which is prohibited by Islamic law, the official MENA news agency said.
To reach his decision, the mufti consulted with economic advisers and concluded that Bitcoin involves a high level of risk for individuals and the state, and may cause direct financial damage to people and institutions that already use it, as well as to existing currencies.
The fatwa also said that, due to the difficulty of supervising the electronic currency, Bitcoin can facilitate the financing of terrorism and trafficking of arms and drugs.
To support his opinion, the mufti cited a saying by the Prophet Muhammad, who said that “Whoever deceives us is not one of us.”
In Egypt, trading in Bitcoin is not prohibited, and the Central Bank has stated that it does not intend to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges.
Egyptians, however, have been arrested for possessing Bitcoin on the grounds of illegal currency trading.
While volatile, Bitcoin prices rose throughout 2017. In early December, Bitcoin was trading 20 times higher than at the beginning of the year.
Bitcoin, a form of decentralized electronic currency, is created and transferred by networked computers with no one in charge.