The Administrative court postponed on Monday ruling the lawsuit filed by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb, to take Islamic researcher Islam El-Beheiry’s TV show “With Islam” off air to perform a proper analysis of the episode in question.
The lawsuit accused El-Beheiry of insulting Al-Azhar’s scholars, propagating extremist ideologies, doubting the sayings of the companions of the prophet, and for contempt of religion on his show.
The controversial episode discussed the beheading of 32 Egyptians in Libya by the “Islamic State” (IS), in which El-Behiery questioned how the Quran and the “hadiths” could incite people to kill in the name of Islam. He also questioned the validity of prophet’s hadiths, calling them an “illusion” which outraged Al-Azhar.
The lawsuit was filed on 24 April 2015 against the presenter by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Minster of Investment Ashraf Salman, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Radio and Television Union, the chairman of the Egyptian Satellite Company (Nilesat), the chairman of the Free Media Zone Management, and heads of the channel. Al-Tayeb supported his lawsuit by referring to the second article of the Egyptian constitution that stipulates Al-Azhar is an independent Islamic organisation and is the only platform in Egypt tasked with performing all Islamic affairs. It is the main point of reference for religious sciences and is responsible for advocacy and propagation of the science of religion in Egypt and the world.
On 17 May 2015, the trial was postponed to 6 March 2016 since the Minister of Communication interfered in the case to delete the controversial episode from YouTube.
“[His] show has already taken off air, so this verdict is not our main concern currently; we are more concerned with the second verdict accusing him of ‘contempt of religion’ and the one-year prison sentence,” coordinator of a solidarity campaign for El-Beheiry, Manal Sadek, told Daily News Egypt.
The appeal to drop the sentence of the second verdict against El-Beheiry will be held on 21 March.
The charges in this verdict against El-Beheiry stem from a programme he hosted, in which he questioned the teachings of Salafi preachers. In many of his episodes, he provided video clips of famous and respected Salafi preachers and criticised their religious arguments. His programme was suspended after several warnings from Al-Azhar and a number of media officials.
El-Beheiry stirred controversy since his TV show was first aired in July 2013; he was accused of deviating from state-sanctioned religious interpretations.
Recently, the number of cases of “religious contempt” has increased dramatically against authors, journalist, researchers, and intellectuals; many have expressed their anger and have called for this law to be repealed.