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article imageChristian Egyptian media mogul faces trial for Mickey Mouse tweet

By Joan Firstenberg     Jan 10, 2012 in World
Cairo - With Hosni Mubarak out of power in Egypt, the violence begins anew between Muslims and Coptic Christians. The latest incident involves an Egyptian businessman who tweeted a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic dress. He is now on trial.
Prominent Egyptian media mogul Naquib Sawiris posted a cartoon featuring a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie on his Twitter account last June. He made a public apology after Muslims complained about it, but Sawiris is due to be tried on January 14 in Cairo.
The decision for a trial follows boycotts of his telecom company and at other outlets. He tried to say it was supposed to be a joke and apologized profusely, but a lawyer Mamdouh Ismail filed a formal complaint against him.
The tweeted images are of Mickey Mouse wearing a traditional Islamic robe with a full beard, while Minnie Mouse is wearing a niqab - a full-face veil - with just her eyes showing. She can be identified by her large ears and trademark pink hair ribbon. The tweet provoked tens of thousands of Egyptians who joined groups on Facebook and other social media condemning Sawiri.
The Washington Post reports that the case is linked to developments in Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last February. Sawiris and Ismail belong to competing political parties, and sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims has been growing. In Egypt’s parliamentary elections, Islamic parties have won a large majority, leaving liberals outside the government.
The case has increased fears that ultraconservative Muslims could use their new- found powers to try to stifle freedom of expression. Lawyer Ismail, an Islamist, says that's not true. He claims he initiated legal action against Coptic Christian Sawiris because he wants the law to be respected by all, even someone who is a famous businessman and politician, in the post-Mubarak era.
“The revolution came about because we all are seeking the rule of law without any exceptions.”
The charge is punishable by up to one year in prison. The BBC reports that Mr. Sawiris faces a strong challenge from the Islamists. His father is the richest man in Egypt. Sawiris, very rich himself, has announced that he 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.
Egyptian Christians and liberals are becoming increasingly concerned about the the growing influence of conservative Islam in Egypt, in particular the strong showing of al-Nour in the recent elections. Following the overthrow of President Mubarak, anti-Christian attacks broke out. Some Christians then accused the governing military council of being too soft on the attackers.
And in October, 24 mostly Christian protesters were killed by security forces during protests in central Cairo over the divisive issue.
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