New Disney Character: Egyptian Minnie

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Cartoons simply will never go out of fashion. Regardless of the advent of technology, creativity is always captured in cartoons. Some funny while others can get you into trouble.

One such man who got into trouble in Egypt is Telecoms mogul Christian Naguib Sawiris, the owner of mobile phone company Mobinil.

No joke

Naguib is one of top ten richest men in Africa, who? is estimated to be worth $5.6 billion. A man of power and affluence angered Muslims in Egypt with his Twitter post.

He has been accused of mocking Islam after tweeting cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse wearing conservative Muslim attire. In the cartoon Mickey Mouse had a beard and Minnie in a face veil. The pictures were posted to advertise his mobile phone firm.

She is identifiable by her large ears and trademark pink hair ribbon.

The cartoons were already widely circulating online, but when Mr Sawiris re-posted them last week, he received an immediate angry reaction from people who said they were offended.

Naguib Sawiris, who launched a political party promoting a secular Egypt, later apologised on Twitter. “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,” he tweeted to more than 60,000 followers.

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.

He was a leading voice in the anti-government protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power in February and recently started a new political party, The Free Egyptians.

But many have questioned his wisdom in sharing the cartoons at a time of tensions between Coptic Christians and conservative Muslims.

Power of social media

For centuries we have witnessed the power of media however it was Egypt which showed the world the power of social media.

It seems its going to do it again!

After the cartoon was posted online, it immediately caused a flurry of complaints on Twitter.

But tens of thousands of people have joined groups on Facebook and other social media condemning him.

“There’s a fine line between expressing your opinion/freedom of speech and being flat out disrespectful,” said one woman.

According to Mahmoud Fathi, a leading figure in one of the newly formed Salafi political parties, Mr Sawiris is “playing with fire”.

Mr Fathi told The Independent: “I’m upset. It’s not acceptable to do these things.

The group, called ‘We are joking Sawiris’, 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.’

Another Facebook group named ‘We hate you Mickey Sawiris’ depicted the Egyptian businessman as Mickey Mouse. The group’s motto is: ‘No to mockery of Islam.’

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.

Professor Ahmed Mahmoud Kareema, from the Sharia Department of Al-Azhar University said that insulting religion is a criminal act under Islam. He claimed that if Sawiris had posted a cartoon of the Mouse family dressed as Jews or Christians he would have been accused of being antisemitic or anti-Christian (Christianophobic?). This made me laugh since antisemitic cartoons are so common in Egypt and have never nor will ever be criticized, much less prosecuted.

?Isn?t it wonderful that Twitter can be used for inciting murder? Well, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini used tape cassettes to organize the Iranian Islamist revolution. Silly yuppies think they are the only ones who can use new technology gadgets. If Stalin were around today he?d be texting his BFFs, ?Dude! Down with the enemies of the people & send them to Siberia b4 they stage a counterrevolution!? Barry Rubin from Krethi Plethi commented on the Mouse incident.

?That guy is crazy. We should foster good relations, not destroy the nation?, Shad an Egyptain working in the finance sector told ?I am a Christian but I don?t like the pictures.?

This seems to be the comment from most Egyptians working and living in UAE.

The Egyptain Consulate refused to comment.

Once again

It is not the first time Mr Sawiris has provoked criticism with comments about Islam. In 2007, he spoke out against the Islamic veil.

He told a newspaper: ‘I am not against veil… but when I walk in the street, I feel like a foreigner.’


Mr Sawiris posted his drawings around the time that a Danish court sentenced a Somali man to ten years in prison for breaking into the home of a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, armed with an axe.

Muhideen Mohammed Geelle, 30, was found guilty of a terror attempt.

Geelle entered cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s home in Aarhus on New Year’s Day 2010.

Mr Westergaard locked himself inside a panic room and was unharmed.

Police arrived and apprehended Geelle after shooting him in the leg.

Danish authorities said they have foiled several terror plots linked to the 2005 newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered protests in Muslim countries.


At least 15 Salafi lawyers have filed lawsuits accusing Mr Sawiris of religious contempt, an official at the prosecutor’s office said.

The Salafis have since launched campaigns on Facebook and Twitter calling on Muslims to boycott Mr Sawiris’s mobile phone company Mobinil.

The cartoons are another source of sectarian tensions in Egypt, which have already seen widespread violence during a period of political transition.

A Salafi cleric Mazen el-Sersawi appeared on television to criticise Mr Sawiris.

He said: ‘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?’

The outcry comes at a time of tension between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims.

Cairo has seen violent clashes between Christians and Muslims in recent months

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.

There are also concerns about the growing influence of the ultra-conservative Salafists in Egypt. Salafists take their inspiration from the early generations of Muslims who were close to the Prophet Muhammad and his message.

Political commentators are worried that the controversial cartoons could spark further violence on Egyptian streets ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in September.

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