Egypt’s minister of higher education has suspended a university professor following claims that he insulted the Qur’an.
His detention follows the circulation of a video online which captured a debate between Dr Mohamed Mahdaly, a professor of sociology in Alexandria, and several students.
The argument is around the Qur’an’s teachings over incest and common law marriage. Mahdaly was reportedly arguing in favour of mothers marrying their sons when challenged with a Qu’ranic verse outlawing such practises he responded: “I don’t give a f**k about that [Qu’ranic] verse.”
Following the debate, the students went on to accuse the professor of “contempt for the Islamic religion” and the video was widely shared along with calls for him to stand down, reports Alquds.
Dr Mahdaly was referred to an urgent investigation by the Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar on charges of “insulting the Qur’an”.
The professor himself says that the video was taken out of context and said the incident was staged.
Over recent years there has been a surge in blasphemy cases in Egyptian courts in what rights groups say is part of a wider culture of intolerance.
In 2015 the Cairo Misdemeanour Court sentenced Islam Al-Buhairi, presenter of “With Islam” to five years in prison for contempt of religion after Al-Azhar took offense to the content of his show.
In 2018 a Coptic teacher in a state school was charged with contempt of religion and two years before that an Egyptian court convicted four Coptic teenagers of the same after they appeared in a video mocking Muslim prayers.
Despite the fact that General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has tried to position himself as defender of the Christian community, Egypt’s Copts say they have been more harshly treated under him than any other ruler.
Egyptian civil rights lawyer Hamdi Al-Assyouti estimates that 90 per cent of blasphemy charges are filed against Christians.