The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) welcomes the final verdict of the Supreme Administrative Court, issued yesterday, of the return of Dr. Ezzat Attia, professor and head of the Department of Hadith in the Faculty of Theology in Al Azhar University, back to his work in the University and the depletion of the disciplinary council decision and punishment by removal from office keeping his pension. The Court stated that the fatwa of adult men breast-feeding from women colleagues is a mere view and interpretation and issuing it does not constitute an error and there is never an absolute right.
AFTE is not concerned with the content of thoughts, views and interpretations unless it is related to incitement to hatred, violence and racism otherwise, freedom of thought is guaranteed for everyone and in this case according to what the court stated a fatwa is just a view and an interpretation.
This case goes back to the year 2007, when the Supreme Council of Al Azhar issued a decision to suspend Dr. Ezzat from work in the University and referring him to investigation in an emergency meeting. This was as a result to his statement and what was transferred in audiovisual media means in relation to the fatwa. In a release that the Council issued, it stated that what was uttered by Dr. Ezzat Attia, professor of the science of Hadith in the Faculty of Theology in Al Azhar University, is incompatible with the principles of the Islamic religion and violates the principles of education and ethics and it is detrimental to the prestigious Azhar institution. Accordingly, it was decided in a disciplinary council headed by Dr. Mahmoud Mehany Vice President of the Assiut branch of the University in October 2007, that this fatwa necessitates removal from office.
AFTE considers the issuing of a verdict of this like an important step in the frame of protecting academic freedom which includes freedom of research, teaching, speech and publishing for the members of the academic society in Universities.
AFTE demands that academic associations carry the burden of protecting professors and students from the unacceptable pressure whether political, cultural, economic or ideological. Moreover, Universities must protect academic staff members and students from internal and external effects which would restrict the practice of this freedom.