The Arab Spring has flowered. Tellecoms mogul Naguid Sawiris is the son of Egypt’s richest man and the nation’s largest private employer. In the new freedom gained in Egypt he used his wealth to found the secular Free Egyptians Party. In the past he has remarked that after the Arab Spring so many women in Egypt now wear the veil that he feels like a ‘foreigner’ in his own country. He also tweets and has an internet site. And he is in big trouble.
His offence is to have posted pictures which have aroused the ire of certain influential sections of the newly free progressive Egyptian society which we all welcomed. Well some did. No he did not follow the lead of Anthony Weiner, nor did he post cartoons of Muhammad with a goat. He posted cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Mickey wore a beard, Minnie a veil, and both were clothed in the type of garb favoured by Islamist fundamentalists. Underneath was the caption “Mickey and Minnie after.” After what? After the revolution is complete and the Islamists take over, as they shall?
Professor Ahmed Mahmoud Kareema of the Sharia Department of Al-Azhar University claims that Sawiris would have been accused of being anti-Semitic or
anti-Christian if he had posted a cartoon of the Mouse family clothed as a Jews or as Coptic priests. Sawiris’ supposed crime was insulting religion.
Anti-Semitic cartoons are so common in Egypt that no one remarks upon them and no one has ever been prosecuted for drawing, publishing or disseminating them. Christians are being attacked and murdered in newly free Egypt with what seems like impunity.
When I stumbled across professor Kareema’s statement I spent a few minutes trying to imagine the professors and lecturers I know, especially those engaged in theological studies, demanding that people be prosecuted for exercising free speech. Nope, yet more wasted time. But then Islam is different, very different.
As a Coptic Christian Sawiris should have known better. He has apologised and points out that he was joking. Humour is not a noted characteristic of Islamic fundamentalists. It is difficult to imagine the ayatollahs having a good laugh at our ‘edgier’ comedians, except perhaps when they were making mock of Christians. The Islamists would of course be free from insult from our cutting edge, pushing the boundaries comedians. They have noted how the wind blows and pick their targets carefully. After all Rowan Williams, of “Old Fuzzy Beard” as he has been called is unlikely to issue a fatwa or encourage the beheading of the lineup at the Comedy Store.
60,000 have already signed up on Facebook condemning Sawiris. Meanwhile15
lawyers from the Salafi movement, a purist Islamic sect, have called on the prosecutor general to prosecute Sawiris for insulting religion. The Salafis men tend to wear long beards, their women the niquab or burkah.
The Facebook revolution is in full swing. It’s not only the good guys who can use their thumbs. If Hitler were about he would be tweeting or texting his BFF’s, “Yo Dude. Death 2 defilers of the blood. Send them to camps B4 they infect us all.”
The only good thing which will emerge from the Arab Spring is that in a year or two there will be a lot of Egyptian restaurants opening up in the West.