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Christian businessman charged with blasphemy in Egypt over tweet

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt

A prominent Christian businessman and liberal political leader in Egypt has been charged with “blasphemy and insulting Islam” for tweeting an image of Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in Islamic clothing.

Telecommunications executive Naguib Sawiris, who also heads the secular liberal Free Egyptians political party, will face a trial after a group of Islamist lawyers filed a lawsuit against him. He could face a year in prison if convicted.

Naguib-Sawiris-4X3.jpg
Naguib Sawiris

The picture of a bearded Mickey Mouse wearing a traditional Islamic robe and Minnie Mouse in a niqab, posted by Mr Sawiris on Twitter last June, prompted thousands of complaints on the internet.

He apologised saying, “I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry.”

But the apology was not enough to placate the offended Muslims, and various Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, led a nationwide campaign calling for a boycott of products and services offered by Mr Sawiris’ companies.

He is the chairman of Orascom Telecom and a major shareholder in mobile phone service provider Mobinil. Around 300,000 customers have left Mobinil, accusing Mr Sawiris of insulting Islam.   

Political dimension      

There have been suggestions that the legal action against Mr Sawiris could also have a political dimension. Criticising the charges and trial, human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said:

Contempt of religion’ is a very vague term, and the prosecution has taken the radical interpretation, raising questions of whether this is a legal or a political matter.

Advocating a secular, liberal future for Egypt, Mr Sawiris has openly opposed the Islamists’ plan to draft a new constitution heavily influenced by sharia law.

And that prospect looks increasingly likely as the country’s two leading Islamist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party and the Salafist al-Nur party, emerged from the parliamentary elections with around two-thirds of the vote. Mr Sawiris’ Free Egyptians party came a distant third with around ten per cent.  

The blasphemy charge against Mr Sawiris raises further concerns about the direction in which post-revolution Egypt is heading. While the uprising was characterised by calls for a secular democracy, key principles of such a state – freedom of speech and religion – appear to be lacking in this case.

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    • Praise God that local police in the village of Tehsil Summodri, Faisalabad District, Pakistan acted to withdraw false allegations of blasphemy against 31 Christians and 23 other villagers. The allegations under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (which carries a mandatory death sentence) were made on 2 September when Christians were ploughing a piece of land given to them for free by its Muslim owner to extend the local Christian cemetery. A group of Muslims accused them of desecrating Muslim graves. The police investigation revealed that the land had been a Muslim cemetery many years earlier but the graves had been moved elsewhere. They changed the charges to the lesser ones under Section 297 (which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year or a fine). It is very unusual for the Pakistani police to defend the rights of Christians in this way. Pray that others will follow their example. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 10 hours ago

    • School text-books in Turkey are still teaching that the Armenians and most other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire a century ago were agents of enemy foreign powers such as Britain and Russia. This, the books say, was the reason for what they call the “necessary deportation” of the Christians. Turkey still does not accept blame for the deaths of at least 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians, many massacred or dying of deprivation as they were force-marched out of their homeland. Next year, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of the worst year of the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide. Please pray that the innocent suffering of these faithful believers will be recognised by every country and that the world will resolve never to let such a genocide happen again. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Pray for 27 Christians, believed to be from various Asian countries, who were detained overnight by the Saudi authorities on 5 September for worshipping at a private home in Khafji. The home had been under surveillance since a neighbour had reported suspicious activities there. Pray that the Lord will protect His people in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to practise a non-Islamic religion in public but supposedly permissible to do so in private. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Wao, a predominantly Christian town on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, is protesting against its inclusion in the new semi-independent Islamic region of Bangsamoro. Wao’s mayor, Elvino Balicao, is seeking exemption from the Bangsamoro government and its Islamic law and has asked that the town remain under the central government. He said that the town is 83% Christian and that local churches support exemption from Bangsamoro. Wao is in the centre of the Muslim-majority province of Lanao del Sur. Pray that the Lord will protect His people and that Wao will gain exemption from the Bangsamoro government. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Our Father in Heaven, we lift up our brothers and sisters serving sentences in labour camps in North Korea, whether foreigners like Kenneth Bae from the USA, or the far greater number of North Korean believers whose names we do not know but You do. Please pour out Your grace into their lives as they suffer hunger, exhaustion, pain and imprisonment for the sake of Christ. May they continue steadfast in their faith, loving their enemies and praying for their persecutors. May their Christ-like lives draw other North Koreans to You. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Nov 2014 00:00

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