Egyptian telecom businessman Naguib Sawiris is being sued in various lawsuits for “religious contempt” because of a simple cartoon showing Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse with a veil. Sawiris is a Christian secularist and was making a joke. However, an Islamic group called the Salafis has led a campaign against him for insulting Islam and demands for prosecution.
Sawiris has apologized but he is now the target of multiple lawsuits for religious contempt — part of a trend toward civil and criminal blasphemy charges that are on the increase around the world.
Sawiris has shown far greater courage than most in the Middle East in launching a political party dedicated to a secular Egypt and the separation of state and religion. Facebook sites has sprung up threatening him and his businesses. One called “We are joking Sawiris” states “We have to cut out the tongue of any person who attacks our religion.”
Civil libertarians should rally behind Sawiris and denounce the use of the legal system to stamp out secular or opposing views of religion. As for the 15 lawyers who have taken legal action against Sawiris, they are using the law to deny basic legal protections for free thought and free speech. It is a disgrace to a legal system to use the law to punish those who wish to speak out on religion or other subjects.