court proceedings initiated by lawyers associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Following a conviction on grounds of apostasy, those prosecuting Abu Zayd went a step further by insisting that the courts also impose a divorce from his wife on grounds that an non-Muslim cannot be married to a Muslim woman.
Because of these developments, Abu Zayd and his wife Ibtihal Younes ( a professor of French literature) considered it prudent to leave Egypt for the more welcoming academic environment in Europe. Traveling via Spain Abu Zayd found refuge in the Netherlands, where he held a number of academic posts at the Leiden University and lastly as the incumbent of the Ibn Rushd Chair at the University for Humanistics in Utrecht. He was also associated with the Wissenschaftkolleg zu Berlin in Germany. In 2005 he was awarded the Ibn Rushd Prize by the Ibn Rushd Fund for the Freedom of Thought
After an absence of almost fifteen year, Abu Zayd started to revisit his home country again. However, his position is still controversial; in December 2009 Kuwait refused him entry in spite of having initially issued a valid visit visa. It was during a recent visit to Indonesia that the scholar fell ill and was admitted to the Shaykh Zayed Hospital in Cairo where he slipped into a coma.
Publishing primarily in Arabic, very little of Abu Zayd's work has been translated into English. The German-Iranian scholar and author Navid Kermani assisted Abu Zayd a number of years ago with the publication of an autobiography in German, which was later also translated into Dutch.