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Church of Scientology in Egypt

Conor Sheils discovers that a group linked to the controversial cult is operating in the rural governorate of Fayoum, hidden behind the facade of a drug rehabilitation centre...

One of the world's most controversial religions could be taking hold in Egypt under the guise of a drug treatment centre. The teachings of Scientology, founded by Ron L. Hubbard and widely viewed as one of the most menacing religious cult leaders in the world, are being pedalled by a supposed drug treatment facility based in Fayoum, targetting the most vulnerable people in society.

On the outside, Narconon Egypt is a centre designed to tackle drug addiction but in reality hosts a seedy underbelly. The Narconon programme is based around the teachings of Hubbard, the founder of the spooky Scientology cult which has gripped millions of lives worldwide. The group is a controversial sect which believes in Xenu, an extra-terrestrial dictator who brought billions of people to Earth in a spacecraft 75 million years ago before killing them. The 'religion' claims essence of these people remains, causing spiritual harm to those in the modern day. Members include actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise and recently deceased starlet Peaches Geldof and many former followers claim that the cult separated them from their families and ruined their lives.

The Narconon programme, founded by former heroin addict and prison inmate, William Benitez, is aimed at drug addicts desperately seeking a cure and costs more than $1000 per month. Previous 'students' claim that they were forced to endure gruelling five-hour sauna sessions in an effort to 'cleanse' their bodies before beginning a creepy 'life-skills' programme which aimed to mould them according to the programme's beliefs. This segment of the "treatment" encourages students to delve into their darkest secrets in the company of complete strangers, a move which the centre claims is designed to "extrovert the student from disturbing memories associated with drug use allowing the student to view the world around him."

One former volunteer at the Egyptian centre said: "It's really spooky and strange. I was so passionate about helping people with addiction problems but I left feeling very depressed. It wasn't about helping people, it was something different altogether."

A statement on the site says: "Narconon Egypt's mission is to eradicate the problem of drug and alcohol abuse internationally through effective rehabilitation and education. Using the proven approach to rehabilitation developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the Narconon programme offers former addicts new life and purpose. Narconon graduates return to their families and communities drug-free and fully in control of their lives."

L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology has long stood accused of attempting to psychologically manipulate members using invasive 'Diantics' tests which force the participant to reveal intimate secrets about their lives. The official Church of Scientology website strongly praises the Narconon programme. A glowing advertisement page claims: "True freedom for the individual cannot be attained in a world awash with substance abuse and drug addiction. That is why the Church of Scientology is fully committed to programs that effectively address this social issue."

A spokesperson for Narconon Egypt admitted that the Narconon programme is endorsed by the Church and inspired by the Hubbard's teaching but claimed that despite this the group was "secular." He initially denied that he was a member of the cult but refused to discuss his beliefs regarding the sect and directed our reporter to the Church of Scientology movement website for more information.