The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association has written a letter to the president of Egypt’s Suez Canal University protesting its investigation and informal suspension without pay of an English professor variously accused of “contempt of religion” and “insulting Islam.” As the letter details, Mona Prince is accused by a student of making “untoward” statements about Islam in a lecture on sectarian tensions in Egypt.
The letter describes the incident as a misunderstanding or disagreement between Prince and a student complainant. "It seems to us, indeed, that Dr. Prince acted precisely as a professor should, particularly in a discussion section of a course designed to teach critical thinking skills,” states the letter, signed by MESA’s president, Peter Sluglett. “She encouraged her students to tackle matters that, while sensitive and unpleasant, are among the most pressing socio-political issues in contemporary Egypt.”
“We are quite disturbed, therefore, that the university has opened an investigation at all,” the letter continues. “The mere fact that the university deems this innocuous incident worthy of inquiry could exercise a chilling effect upon academic freedom."
The president of Suez Canal University did not immediately respond to an email message on Thursday.