Egypt: Copt Faces 'Contempt of Religion' Charges

A cartoon of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic garb has led to criminal charges against a Coptic billionaire in Egypt.

Gabe Kahn. ,

IslamoMickey Cartoon
IslamoMickey Cartoon
Sawaris Twitter

Coptic Christian and telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris is facing charges of contempt of religion after tweeting a caricature of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in Islamic garb.

“This is the first fair decision of the prosecution to send Naguib Sawiris to trial, and there are two other cases on which Sawiris has not been sent to trial yet,” Mamduh Ismail, a lawyer for the ultra-conservative al-Gama'a al-Islamiya group, told Al Arabiya.

“The decision to send Sawiris to court affirms that we have begun the implementation of the rule of law and the achievement of justice in the true sense of the word and that no one is above the law anymore,” Ismail, who pressed for the charges, added.

“The chief prosecutor summoned Sawiris to hear his explanation about the charges he faces ─ defamation of religion ─ and after that a decision was issued to refer the case to court.”

The court will hear the case against the billionaire Sawaris, who founded the liberal Free Egyptians party on 14 January.

Sawiris sparked a firestorm of Muslim outrage after tweeting a cartoon of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse in a face veil in June 2011, joking that the cartoon characters would be forced to dress conservatively if Islamists took power.

He apologized for the caricature after Islamists called for a boycott of his cell phone service provider Mobinil.

The charges against Sawaris have cast a pall on secular and non-Muslim Egyptians in the post-Mubarak era, which has seen the rise of Islamist politics in the once-secular country.

Western leaders, who backed the revolution against Mubarak in the name of democracy, have expressed growing concern over the gains of Islamists in Egypt's polls and what they may portend for the country's future.

Meanwhile, a Salafi group of self-appointed religious police seeking to enforce Shari'a Law has been formed in Egypt.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, named after the Saudi religious police, has begin a thuggish campaign using threats of violence to enforce its stringent religious standards.

However, members of the group suffered a setback on Sunday when women in a salon they attempted to shut down ran them out - disarming them and beating them with their own canes.