Egypt sacks minister for remarks seen as religious insult

Egypt dismisses its justice minister after he says he would even arrest 'a prophet'

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Egypt's disputed President Abdel Fattah al Sisi (R) shaking hands with Justice Minister Ahmed al Zind (L) May 20, 2015.

Egypt's Prime Minister Sharif Ismail sacked on Sunday the justice minister after he said on television that he would even arrest "a prophet," in remarks that sparked outrage in the country.

"Prime Minister Sharif Ismail decided to dismiss Justice Minister Ahmed al Zind from his post," a statement from the premier's office said, without giving reason for the decision.

Zind sparked outrage on social media over the weekend and a warning from Cairo-based University of Al Azhar after an interview he gave to private satellite channel Sada al Balad on Friday.

Asked about a case involving journalists accused of defaming him and whether he would jail them, Zind said he would imprison anyone.

"Even if it's a prophet, God's peace and blessings be upon him," Zind said.

Upon realising what he had said, Zind immediately stopped and said: "I ask for forgiveness from God."

He further said any "wrongdoer, whatever his identity -- even judges" would be jailed if found guilty.

Angry Egyptians launched the Twitter hashtag  "trial for Zind" as they lashed out at the minister.

"At least he should be sacked and then put on trial. This issue is not a joke," said one tweet.

Zind is the second justice minister to be dismissed in less than a year for controversial comments.

In January, he angered human rights groups when he called for the "mass killing" of Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Al Azhar condemnation

His latest comment drew criticism from Al Azhar for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

"All those involved in public discourse and in the media must respect the name of the Prophet. He should not be subjected to any insult even if it's unintentional," it said in a statement without naming Zind.

Zind had clarified his comments in a telephone interview Saturday with private network CBC television, saying they were a mere "slip of the tongue," they were "meant in a hypothetical sense."

In January, Zind said in an interview with the same Sada al Balad television that he "would not be satisfied until 10,000 Brotherhood members were killed for every martyr" from the armed forces and the police.

Human Rights Watch said his remarks encouraged the "slaughter" of political opponents.

Egyptian authorities have oppressed the Muslim Brotherhood after the army ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in a 2013 coup.

Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been killed and thousands had been jailed without trial, while several of its leaders including Morsi have been sentenced to death or lengthy jail terms.

After the coup, Egypt's judiciary has faced criticism internationally in the past two years after judges issued mass death sentences against Muslim Brotherhood supporters, locking up youth activists and sentencing writers and journalists.

Zind's predecessor, Mahfouz Saber, was also forced to resign last May after saying the son of a garbage collector was ineligible to serve as a judge.

TRTWorld and agencies