Using Koranic verses and the call to prayer as mobile phone ringtones is inappropriate and violates the sanctity of the word of God, Egypt's highest religious legal authority, Mufti Ali Gomaa, said on Wednesday.

Verses from the Koran have become popular as ringtones in Egypt, and websites and television channels advertise them for downloading.

Putting the Holy Koran or the call to prayer as a mobile phone ringtone trivializes the sanctity of the verses, which are for prayer, invocation and recitation and not to be taken out of their legitimate use, state news agency MENA quoted Gomaa as saying.

When answering a cellphone, the user interrupts the holy words of God, which could confuse their meaning and misdirect the listener, Gomaa said.

Muslims can use religious songs suitable to the length of the ringtone, but the sanctity of the Koran should be respected, he added.

The majority of Egypt's 78 million people are Sunni Muslim.

(Writing by Dina Zayed, editing by Tim Pearce)