Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic Christian and one of Egypt’s richest businessmen, is to face trial on blasphemy charges simply for tweeting cartoons of Mickey Mouse and Minnie dressed in conservative Muslim attire.
BBC (H/T Susan K) Telecom mogul and Coptic Christian Naguib Sawiris re-posted the images on Twitter last June. He subsequently apologised, saying he meant no offence. But a formal complaint against him has now been referred to court.
Tensions between Egypt’s Muslims and minority Christian community have worsened in recent months. ”It’s a decision showing that there is justice in Egypt,” Mamduh Ismail, one of a group of lawyers who filed a legal complaint against Mr Sawiris, told Reuters.
The tweeted images showed Mickey Mouse wearing a traditional Islamic robe with a full beard, while Minnie Mouse is wearing a niqab – a full-face veil – with just her eyes showing. She was identifiable by her large ears and trademark pink hair ribbon.
After an angry reaction from people who said they were offended, he later tweeted: “I apologise for those who don’t take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry.”
But tens of thousands of people joined groups on Facebook and other social media condemning him. Conservative Muslim groups also called for boycotts of Mr Sawiris’s companies, including mobile phone provider Mobinil.
Mr Sawiris, whose father is the richest man in Egypt, is a champion of secularism and has spoken out against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country, including the increasing number of women wearing full-face veils.
After the anti-government protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power last February, he founded a liberal political party, the Free Egyptians. The party struggled to make gains in recent elections for the lower house of parliament, which were mainly a contest between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist al-Nour party.
Salafists are Muslims who take their inspiration from the early generations of Muslims who were close to the Prophet Muhammad and his message.
Egyptian Cleric says, “Anyone who insults the paedophile prophet Mohammed, MUST be killed, even if he repents.”