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Controversial Egyptian professor, presidential candidate says she's being targeted

Mona Prince, a professor at Suez University who has expressed her intention to run for president, has been suspended for her choice of curriculum and for conduct the university finds unbecoming.

CAIRO — An English literature professor who plans to run for president of Egypt is being disciplined for teaching John Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost" and posting on Facebook videos of herself dancing.

Suez University instructor Mona Prince faces a hearing Sept. 12, a continuation of one held Aug. 28. Prince has been disciplined in the past and has been suspended since Aug. 6, when she was also referred to the public prosecutor for possible criminal charges. Accusations against her include contempt of religion, talking to students about religious beliefs and posting videos on social media that offended professors in the Faculty of Arts and the university. Her teaching of “Paradise Lost,” according to the school, amounted to "calling for the glorifying of Satan."

When Prince left the disciplinary board’s room, she said, “From my point of view, the whole issue was fabricated by the university to get rid of me for good. After reviewing the file … a very big file at that, [I found] testimonies of students that are mostly not true about me not working, wearing short [dresses] and not being suitable to teach. This is not a problem since these students are still young and don’t know what it is to teach or what the teaching methods are. According to assessments, I am a failed teacher. In reality, I am not sure if these assessment forms were made for other teachers also, or just me.”

On April 4, Prince sparked a major controversy on social networking websites after she posted on Facebook a video of herself on her rooftop courtyard dancing to the rhythm of “Leh Bedari Keda,” a song by Egyptian artist Ruby, whose music and dancing videos some people consider to be provocative. Her real problems began, she said, when a journalist published pictures of her drinking and wearing a bikini, along with a video of her belly dancing.

On Aug. 9, three days after the university's decision, Prince said on her Facebook page, “Is belly dancing a crime by law? Is wearing a bikini punishable by law? Isn’t it allowed for one to wear a bikini and take a video while dancing in it? Are debates in lecture halls a crime? Have you people gone nuts, or what?”

Prince occasionally does things some people describe as “abnormal” because they break with the customs and traditions of Egyptian society. In May, Prince took to Facebook to announce she plans to run for president in the elections scheduled for 2018, and she launched an official page under the title “Dr. Mona Prince, President of Egypt 2018.”

On the page, Prince describes her campaign platform and the paramount role she believes it could play in fighting terrorism. “It is through education, art and freedom that your golden sun shall return, Egypt, so that Egyptians can once again embrace productivity and contribute to human civilization.”

She also said, “I cannot promise you that I will solve all of the problems facing Egypt and the Egyptians in one, two or 10 years. Real change takes time, but I promise that I will work hard with the skilled youth to lay sound foundations for a modern Egyptian state. I will also work on restoring the Egyptian identity in the four years [to come]. I will surely not seek a second term, in order to ensure a power rotation, and because I will be yearning to do other things away from public work, which will have taken over almost all of my personal life. Also, I am a fun person who loves life. I will be a light-hearted president, and I will spoil the people."

In another post, she said, “I have a dream that Egypt will become a modern and secular state for all Egyptians and will cease to be a third-world country. I have a dream that we will stop being [like] the US or Saudi Arabia. Egypt shall be Egyptian, and we shall restore our Egyptian civilization and culture. I will try to do so through the acts I carry out in my life and through my candidacy for the Egyptian presidency, and I will keep doing so no matter the circumstances.”

As soon as Prince announced her candidacy, media figure Azmi Moujahed said May 10 on al-Assema TV that Prince's candidacy is an insult to Egypt: “Egypt should not be offended like this. Prince needs mental therapy for announcing her intention to run for president.”

Media figure Mohammed al-Ghaiti also criticized Prince, saying May 10 on his LTC TV program that she is just an attention-seeker who is not fit for the presidency because she is a dancer.

On June 25, Prince displayed a video clip of her on her roof courtyard in which she says, “Start your day with music and dance, it will definitely make you feel better, work better and with love. Love yourselves. I send the same message to all people all over the world.”

As soon as she posted that message, she received a lot of comments from supporters and opponents alike. Some said she was expressing her personal freedom and no one should fault her. Others deplored the message, saying Prince is unworthy to take over the presidency because of her anomalous acts.

The next day, she urged her followers to allocate an hour a day to reading about a variety of topics and to urge their children to read. “It is only through education that civilizations can progress,” she said.

However, Prince's Facebook page has no political proposals to solve Egypt's problems, nothing regarding solutions via education and health or the advancement of Egypt's struggling economy.

Prince recently told Al-Monitor she intends to confront all forms of extremism and terrorism that are threatening Arab societies. “Education is the main drive of societal progress and the main tool through which we can confront terrorism. This is why I will seek to change the curriculum, to help children learn through innovative ways that [depart] from dictation or memorizing techniques.”

“Every person has the right to run for president as long as they meet the required conditions, and I do not care about anyone’s criticism,” she said.

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