Sentencing, suspending, and fining of Professor Ahmad Al-Baghdadi

Dr. Rashid Hamad Muhammad Al-Hamad
Minister of Education and Higher Education
Kuwait City
By facsimile 965-240-5000

Dr. Nader Abdullah Al-Jalal
President, Kuwait University
Kuwait City

By facsimile 965-484-8648

Your Excellencies:

We are contacting you to express our grave concern over the case of Professor Ahmad Al-Baghdadi of the political science department of Kuwait University. As you know, Prof. Al-Baghdadi was recently sentenced by the Kuwaiti court of appeals to a jail term of one year, suspended, a fine of 2,000 KD and probation for three years on the charge of slandering Islam. It is our understanding that this case arose from a newspaper column Prof. Al-Baghdadi wrote criticizing the content and teaching of the curriculum on Islam in Kuwaiti primary and secondary schools.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) comprises 2700 academics worldwide who teach and conduct research on the Middle East and North Africa, and is the preeminent professional association in the field. The association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and is committed to ensuring respect for the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression in the region and in connection with the study of the Middle East and North Africa.

 Prof. Al-Baghdadi is a prominent Kuwaiti public intellectual, and this specious judicial ruling represents a clear violation of his right to freedom of expression, and the chilling effect of the ruling represents a threat to academic freedom in Kuwait. We are encouraged that the University and the Ministry have not taken any actions against Prof. Al-Baghdadi in light of the court of appeals decision. However, we would urge that the University and the Ministry also undertake a vigorous public defense of Prof. Al-Baghdadi’s right to freedom of expression. 

This level of initiative is key, we think, to countering such assaults on academic freedom and freedom of expression more generally that can only result in great harm to our Kuwaiti colleagues and Kuwaiti society as well.

We therefore urge you to defend publicly and specifically Prof. Al-Baghdadi against these charges and to emphasize that you will take the steps necessary to shield your faculty members from such outside pressures against their academic freedom.

Yours sincerely,

Ali Banuazizi

President, Middle East Studies Association

Professor, Boston College


MESA Board of Directors

Laurie Brand, University of Southern California and CAFMENA

Juan Cole, University of Michigan

Ahmad Dallal, Georgetown University

Ellen Fleischman, University of Dayton

Dina Rizk Khoury, George Washington University and CAFMENA

Leslie Peirce, University of California at Berkeley

Donald M. Reid, Georgia State University and CAFMENA

Amira Sonbol, Georgetown University


MESA Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa 

Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch/Middle East

Lisa Anderson, Columbia University

Kaveh Ehsani, University of Illinois at Chicago

Gregory Gause III, University of Vermont

Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University

Marsha Pripstein Posusney, Bryant College

Eve Troutt Powell, University of Georgia

Glenn E. Robinson, Naval Postgraduate College

Gershon Shafir, University of California at San Diego

Keith Watenpaugh, LaMoyne College 


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