Coptic tycoon Naguib Sawiris under Salafi fire for Niqabi Mickey Mouse cartoon
The picture Naguib Sawiris posted, of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a niqabi Minnie Mouse, has stirred sensitivities between Muslims and Copts in Egypt whose relations have been far from harmonious this year. Photograph courtesy of 'The Traveler Within'.
Fourteen Islamist lawyers, spearheaded by Mamdouh Ismail who is leading the efforts to form a Salafist fundamentalist party, filed a complaint to the Chief Prosecutor against telecom tycoon Naguib Sawiris, after he had posted a cartoon they found it offensive.
Sawiris, one of Egypt's wealthiest businessmen, who turned to politics after the January 25 revolution, posted a cartoon of Mickey Mouse with an Islamic beard, dressed in a short gallabiya, and another of Minnie Mouse, with her face veiled, on the social networking website Twitter.
The comment: “Mickey and Minnie after” accompanied the cartoon.
"The images were very offensive and ridiculed the Islamic faith. That's why we have approached the Public Prosecutor against Sawiris," Ismail said. He added that the reason why they were suing Sawiris was not because he is a Coptic Christian.
"Insulting religion is criminalised by all divine faiths and Sawiris would not like it if a Muslim mocked the clothes of Christian clerics," said the lawyer.
Sawiris, who was the focus of attacks on social networking sites minutes after the posting, insisted that he meant no harm and simply thought the images were amusing. He then trashed the pictures. However, ‘Boycott Sawiris’ groups were launched on both Twitter and Facebook and a Facebook group: entitled: ‘We were also joking, Sawiris' urged people to boycott his products.
One of the postings by the group read: “If you are a true Muslim, boycott his [Sawiris’] products if you love your faith. Spread the message, we have to cut off the tongues of those who defame our faith.”
After being repeatedly attacked for posting the photo, Sawiris wrote on Twitter: “I apologise to anyone, who didn’t take this as a joke. I just thought it was a funny picture, no disrespect meant! as if [sorry].” The next day, he repeated the apology on Twitter, saying: “I at least apologised as I had no intention to mock any religion.”
Sawiris is the founder of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, established after the January 25 revolution. He also owns one of Egypt's three mobile phone operators.
Facebook and Twitter greatly helped Egypt's 18-day protests, which forced an end to the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Through the two websites, subscribers urged people to take to the main squares and informed them of the latest news about what was going on”.