January 10, 2012
by Sara Yasin
An image of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic gear might land one of Egypt’s wealthiest men in prison. Business tycoon and politician Naguib Sawiris tweeted the picture mocking the rise of Islam in the country last June. Later after the backlash began in the Muslim-majority nation, Sawiris said he did not intend to offend with the image, which he later took down. Sawiris will now be tried for “insulting Islam” on 14 January and could face up to a year in prison after a complaint was filed against him by a lawyer for the ultraconservative Salafis, who have been bouyed by success in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections.
Mina Mamdouh of the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights and Information (ANHRI, cast the move as an attempt to manipulate religious differences in the country. In recent months tensions have risen between Egypt’s religious groups. Mamdouh said that Salafis are pandering to the religious sentiments of Egypt’s poor by targeting the Coptic Christian. Mamdouh noted that it was telling that the party went after the powerful businessman, a symbol of liberal power.
Sawiris founded the liberal Free Egyptians Party (FEP), which has threatened to boycott the next round of elections, which will determine the members of Egypt’s advisory upper chamber or Shura Council, in protest of “hundreds” of violations from Islamist parties. The business mogul has been openly critical of Islamists and has expressed concern about the suggestion that in the future Egyptian laws should be based on Shari’ah, or Islamic law. The Muslim Brotherhood claim that Sawiris, owner the largest media channels and mobile networks in Egypt, has used his media empire to spread misinformation about the party during the three rounds of Egypt’s lower house elections.While Sawiris’ FEP party is expected to win 10 per cent of the vote, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is expected to win 41 per cent of the vote, and the Salafist Al-Nour party is expected to garner 20 per cent of the votes.
Secular figures have expressed concern about the impact of an Islamist majority, as the lower house will be responsible for creating laws and drafting its new constitution.