The persecution of university faculty members is unacceptable, said two human rights groups on Tuesday.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemned the referral of Professor Mona Prince to disciplinary investigation and said that those working in the academic community should be afforded the protection to express views that may or may not be widely accepted.
“The two organisations believe that the protection and promotion of academic freedom, and the protection of faculty members from any attempts to interfere or intellectual terrorism, is mainly the responsibility of the academic institution,” said the statement, issued on Tuesday. It called on academic institutions to create a safe environment for university faculty to freely express views, instead of cracking down on freedom of expression.
The groups also called on Suez CanalUniversity to launch an initiative involving students and faculty, promoting and discussing the concepts of academic freedom and freedom of expression and the need for everyone to respect dissenting opinions.
Prince was accused of contempt of religion by a number of her students after a lecture in early April. The complaints prompted an investigation.
Prince teaches a course in conversation, and before her controversial class, she and her pupils had agreed to discuss sectarian strife in Egypt, a growing topic of interest following violence in Al-Khasous and at St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.
The class discussion revealed opposing views on the matter. Prince showed posters put up at the university by Salafi students that said, “Shi’a are the enemy” and told her students that this was an example of sectarianism.
Following the lecture, students submitted complaints against her and Prince said she had received death threats from some.
On 16 April the Dean of the Faculty of Education called Prince and told her that she should not come to the university in case she could not be protected from students’ reactions. Prince has since taken preventive legal action to show that she was asked not to come to the university and had received death threats.
The first complaint accuses her of contempt against Islam as a result of statements made during her lecture. The second complaint was made over comments she allegedly wrote on Facebook criticising the dean, and the third complaint is for irregular attendance.
Prince denied the accusations made in the complaints, saying they stemmed from her discussion with students about sectarian strife.
Additional reporting by Hend Kortam