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Religious institute interferes with thesis results

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information (ANHRI) is deeply concerned by increasing incidents of domination by religious institutes on academic research. The latest such incident occurred at the Coptic Studies Institute, an affiliate of the Egyptian Orthodox church, when the institute pressured an academic to alter the findings of a doctoral thesis entitled: "Preparing the Coptic language for revival". The candidate, Kamal Farid Is'haac, refused to change his findings regarding the phonetics of the Coptic language, so his thesis defense was postponed for two years.

Is'haac, a researcher at the Coptic Studies Institute, requested to set a date for defending the thesis, which discussed the phonetics of the Coptic language, a controversial topic among Coptic language scholars. The Coptic language department head accepted the research plan, assigned professors to the examiners' committee and set a date for discussion. Is'haac was surprised to find Bishop Demetrious among the list of examiners, though he had not been recommended by the board. Is'haac was told that the bishop's presence would be an honorary one on behalf of Pope Shenouda III, since although the bishop was a scholar of the Coptic language he was not a specialist and had received no degree in it.

A couple of days before discussion, Is'haac called the bishop to confirm his attendance, and was shocked to hear the bishop request a list of changes, one of which was that the thesis findings be changed to show that the bishop's accent of the Coptic language was the norm.

Bishop Demetrious also asked Is'haac not to publish his findings and threatened to declare his thesis invalid. This resulted in the Dean of the Coptic Studies Institute canceling the scheduled defense, though the thesis was approved for discussion by the examiner.

ANHRI believes that the Coptic Studies Institute failed in its duty to consult the Coptic language department board on the issue of Bishop Demetrious joining the examiners' committee at the last minute, and to review the Bishop's list of changes for debate.

ANHRI calls on religious institutes not to interfere in academic research or restrict or mandate research criteria. ANHRI believes that researchers and scholars should be able to work freely and condemns the manipulation of researchers' findings by religious institutes for their own purposes.

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