Mansoura University, Egypt, proposal

On Sunday, Egypt's Al-Azhar University announced its decision to expel a female student who hugged a man, an incident that sparked controversy earlier this month.

Footage of the incident began circulating online, ultimately landing the student in trouble. In it, the woman can be seen walking into a surprise birthday celebration, which quickly turned into a proposal. The man can be seen going down on one knee before lifting her up.

Though the incident took place at Mansoura University and not on Al-Azhar's campus, college officials still felt the young woman's actions had undermined their reputation.

Speaking to AFP, Al-Azhar University spokesperson Ahmed Zarie said the "disciplinary council of the Al-Azhar University campus in Mansoura decided to expel the young girl definitively."

However, he also explained that she can still appeal the decision.

Zarie added that they expelled the young woman because she had "presented a 'bad image' of Al-Azhar University, which strictly segregates the genders".

"Hugging between unmarried men and women violates 'the values and principles of society'," he explained.

The man who appeared in the footage may also face repercussions in the coming few days. 

Speaking to press, a spokesman for Mansoura University said the school's disciplinary council will be meeting on Monday to decide on his punishment. 

Al-Azhar University's decision sparked online outrage, forcing them to backtrack on it

"You destroy the future of a student, humiliate her, and subject her to all this over a hug? It's so sad and unfortunate that we've come to this."

Just hours after the university's decision circulated online, many called on officials to reconsider it. Many thought that ruining the woman's academic career over a spontaneous hug wasn't fair. 

Amid the online backlash over the order, the head of Al-Azhar - the most respected authority in Sunni Islam - Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb urged the university's management to review their decision, stressing the importance of the student's academic future.

Late on Monday, the institution's officials held an urgent meeting during which they backtracked on their decision to expel the student and said they would punish her by banning her from taking exams this semester. 

In its statement on the matter, the college said the student was remorseful over her actions and promised she will not violate "social and academic norms again". 

Not the first time a similar case sparks outrage in Egypt

Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon in many colleges across Egypt. 

In 2017, Egypt's Tanta University took action against a young couple after a video of their on-campus engagement went viral on social media.

The video sparked controversy because the students were seen embracing in the footage. In a statement he made on live television at the time, the university's spokesperson Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Wahab Salem said:

 "After we heard of the incident on social media, we gained access to campus CCTV footage and identified most students who were involved in the surprise proposal. 7 students are now under investigation and the couple has also been called in."

"The university will take action against all those involved because they weren't granted an official authorization to host such an event. They also went against the university's rules and regulations," he added.