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Egypt: State Litigation Authority Rejects Request to Suspend a TV Show

(May 22, 2015) On May 19, 2015, Egypt’s State Litigation Authority rejected a petition submitted by Al Azhar (the main religious institution in Egypt) to suspend a television program. The petition accused the show’s host of deliberately criticizing religious symbols and influencing Muslims to doubt their beliefs. (A Memo of the State Litigation Authority Rejects the Al Azhar Petition to Suspend El-Behiry Show, AL YOUM 7 (May 19, 2015) (in Arabic).)

In April 2015, Al Azhar filed petition No. 48059 before the administrative court against the Prime Minister and the Minister of Investment to order TV show host Islam El-Behirey to shut down his program on Islamic heritage and the science of religious jurisprudence. (Al Azhar Files a Lawsuit to Suspend El-Behirey Show, AL-BAWABA (Apr. 22, 2015) (in Arabic).)

In its petition, Al Azhar accused El-Behirey of attacking religious institutions, doubting the “pillars” of Islam, and attempting to influence other Muslims to doubt their religious beliefs. Furthermore, the Al Azhar legal representatives argued that El-Behirey violated and deliberately ignored article 7 of the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 by discussing religious concepts without obtaining the prior approval of the Al Azhar religious institution. (April 26: When the Court Will Hear the Lawsuit Filed by Al Azhar Against the El-Behirey Show, AL YOUM 7 (Apr. 23, 2015) (in Arabic).) Article 7 identifies Al Azhar as “the main reference” for religious science and Islamic affairs in the country. (Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt 2014 [unofficial English translation], State Information Services website.)

Finally, Al Azhar also claimed that El-Behirey disregarded the common interpretation of the Qur’an and preached his own personal understanding of the holy text, without any consultation with Al Azhar. (April 26: When the Court Will Hear the Lawsuit Filed by Al Azhar Against the El-Behirey Show, supra.)

In response, El-Behirey stated that he defended the moderate version of Islam. He also alleged that his criticism focused only on the extreme religious views that helped in forming terrorist groups like the Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. (Adham Youssef, Al-Azhar to Prosecute TV Presenter over ‘Critical’ Content, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Apr. 07, 2015).)

After reviewing the petition submitted by Al Azhar, the State Litigation Authority rejected the request. The Authority stated in its legal memorandum that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Investment are not authorized to order the suspension of the program. The Authority elaborated by saying that the only entity that is authorized to suspend the show is the Egyptian Satellite Company (Nilesat). (The State Litigation Authority Rejects the Al-Azhar Petition to Suspend El-Behiry Show, AL-WASAT (May 19, 2015) (in Arabic).)