Cairo: A tycoon of telecom business in Egypt has been sued by a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) over publishing a controversial cartoon in a local newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, allegedly insulting the religion Islam and Islamic values. The newspaper is also owned by the business tycoon.
The local NGO has sued Naguib Sawiris – who is not only a prominent Egyptian telecom entrepreneur but the top magazine Forbes has also listed him as the second richest man in the country – after publishing a cartoon in his newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The controversial cartoon depicted a scene in which Adam and Eve are scolded by a tank top-wearing Egyptian angel for not voting in favor of the referendum on the country’s new constitution, which has attracted great deal of criticism across the country.
The critics have termed the published cartoon as insulting to Islam, and have compared it with another image tweeted by Sawiris last year of Minnie Mouse dressed in a niqab (veil). The suit has been filed by Salafist lawyer Khaled El-Masry who is also Secretary-General of the National Centre for Defense of Freedoms (NCDF). Both Sawiris and the cartoonist Doaa El-Adl has been named as defendants in the suit.
Speaking to a English-language daily in Egypt, El-Adl said that his cartoon was meant not as an attack on religion but as a comment on the encroachment of religion on the political process.
Earlier this month, with approximately one-third of the country participating, about 60 percent of Egyptians voted in favor of the new constitution, even as moderates voiced fears that the new government would override concerns like a free press, an independent judiciary and rights for minorities with the centrality of Shariah laws.
El-Adl said, “These people will tell you if you vote yes you will go to heaven but if you vote no then you will go to hell.”
“Anyone who tries to draw something with a beard will have it interpreted as an attack on Islam,” he added.
Though he hasn’t criticized the newspaper for swiftly removing the cartoon from their online edition after screenshots and sarcastic comments began to accumulate on Facebook, El-Adl referred to the lawsuit casually, saying that it is ironic for a group called the National Centre for the Defense of Freedoms to take aim at another group’s freedom of speech.
El-Masry, for his part, asserts that the most recent cartoon is an abuse of free expression.
“Naguib Sawiris is a Christian, but the people working at his newspaper are Muslims,” he told the reporters while adding, “It should not be allowed.”