ANOTHER day, another eruption of Muslim outrage – this time over images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse portrayed wearing Islamic garb.
The cartoons were posted on the internet by Telecoms mogul and Coptic Christian Naguib Sawiris, who has since apologised, saying he meant no offence:
I apologise for those who don’t take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry.
But several Islamic lawyers have filed a formal complaint, accusing Sawiris of religious contempt, and there are calls for a boycott of his businesses.
Tens of thousands of people have joined groups on Facebook and other social media condemning him.
Said one woman:
There’s a fine line between expressing your opinion/freedom of speech and being flat out disrespectful.
Shares in Mr Sawiris’ telecoms company, Orascom – Egypt’s largest private employer – have already fallen as a result of the row and subsequent calls for a boycott.
Muslim cleric Mazen el-Sersawi asked in a television interview:
How can a man like this make fun of Muslims, in a country on the brink of sectarian discord? If this is just joking, why don’t you depict Mickey Mouse as a monk or a nun?
Mr Sawiris, whose father is the richest man in Egypt, is a champion of secularism and has spoken out against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country, including the increasing number of women wearing full-face veils.
But many have questioned his wisdom in sharing the cartoons at a time of tensions between Coptic Christians and conservative Muslims.
Scores of people have been wounded and several killed in clashes between the two communities in recent months, and there are fears this row will increase the chances of more sectarian clashes in the run up to post-revolution elections in September.
Note: We assume the Minnie posted by Sawiris is the once reproduced above. The Mickey shown is a work by Ron English, a well-known painter, whose work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide.
Hat tip: Paul W. &Â Ivan