A christian egyptian has posted an online cartoon on his twitter account showing Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse in a veil that has conservative Muslims in Egypt demanding an apology.
Naguid Sawiris said he meant no disrespect when he posted the cartoon, and in the wake of Egypt’s president Mubarak stepping down after his ouster, he is calling for seperation of religion and state.
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Several Facebook groups cropped up violently protesting the posting by Sawiris and 15 lawsuits were filed by conservative Muslim lawyers against Sawiris.
Named “We are joking Sawiris,” the Facebook group said: “If you are really a Muslim, and you love your religion, boycott his projects. We have to cut out the tongue of any person who attacks our religion.”
“I apologize for those who don’t take this as a joke; I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry,” Sawiris tweeted.
The most conservative Islamists in Egypt are called Salafis, and a Salafi cleric Mazen el-Sersawi appeared on television and scolded Sawiris. “Shame on you,” he said.
“How can a man like this make fun of Muslims, in a country on the brink of sectarian discord,” he said. “If this is just joking, why don’t you depict Mickey Mouse as a monk or a nun?”
Sawiris is not new to commenting on conservative Islam. He spoke out against the veil or “niqab” in 2007 that women wear.
“I am not against veil … but when I walk in the street, I feel like a foreigner,” he told local media.
Egypt is to hold elections for the new government in September, and this cartoon has already ignited tensions between conservative Islamists and citizens who are calling for a more secular Egypt.