Islamic preacher Mabrook Attia. Photo courtesy of Mabrook Attia Facebook page.
Following the murder of the 21-year-old faculty of art student outside Mansoura University, the preacher, a former dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University, went live on his Facebook page condemning the crime, while at the same time also saying that women should be modest and wear a veil for safety.
“A girl must be veiled in order to live, and wear loose clothing so as not to be seductive, if your life is precious to you,” he said, adding that girls must make sure when they leave their house to look like a basket and not to leave their hair running down on their cheeks because that attracts those who could kill them.
Attia’s statements went viral, drawing significant anger and controversy on social media. President of the National Council for Women Maya Morsi and women’s rights lawyer Nihad Abou El-Qomsan filed complaints against him with the Public Prosecution on Wednesday, accusing him of inciting violence against women.
The Al-Azhar Centre for Fatwa issued a statement on Wednesday calling the murder a sin in Islam and calling for a “reformulation” of media in line with the values, identity and culture of Egyptian and Arab society.
“Undermining the morals of the veiled woman or the non-veiled woman is something prohibited by religion and using it as an excuse to attack a woman is a huge crime,” said the centre’s statement, adding that Islam honours women and that Prophet Mohamed said to treat them well.
The statement was considered by many on social media an indirect criticism from Al-Azhar of what Attia said a day earlier.
Al-Azhar University also distanced itself from the statements of the former dean regarding women’s clothing, saying they represented his personal opinion and not the opinion of the university.
The university added that it deeply appreciates and respects women, saying it has taken practical steps to enhance women's rights and status, helping them to assume leading posts inside the university.
It also underlined the importance of not conflating the opinion of Al-Azhar, as represented in Council of Senior Scholars, Islamic Research Complex, Al-Azhar University and Al-Azhar Centre for Fatwa, and the personal views of some Al-Azhar professors.
Al-Azhar is considered the most influential Sunni Islamic religious institution in Egypt as well as the world.
Attia defended himself on Wednesday saying that his comments were not directed at Nayera Ashraf, reiterating that he prayed for her and that he did not justify any killing.
“I did not say that the girl was unveiled or went out without covering her hair; I did not justify the killing in the name of the veil,” he said before announcing that he was taking a leave from the social media and the media in general.
He also added that he may or may not return from that leave on his official Facebook page that is followed by more than 1.5 million people.
Born in 1958, Mabrook Attia has been among the most popular religious Muslim scholars in Egypt after the success of his TV shows on Dream TV or MBC Misr TV channel. He is known for his controversial style that mixes comic acts and the simple language of Egyptian Arabic instead of the formal Arabic used by most religious scholars.
Nayera Ashraf was stabbed to death on Tuesday outside Mansoura University’s campus by a fellow student, Mohamed Adel, who later told the prosecution that he killed her because she rejected his marriage proposals several times.
The last moments of Ashraf’s life were recorded on video showing the defendant stabbing her several times before he was stopped and detained by passerbys in the street till the arrival of the police. The video and photos went viral, creating huge anger in the society in the past 48 hours.
Egypt’s public prosecution on Wednesday referred the suspect to trial on a premeditated murder charge.
The first trial session for the defendant will be held on 26 June, the prosecution said in a statement on Wednesday.