Cartoonist sued by rights NGO for overstepping freedom of expression

Liliana Mihaila
5 Min Read
Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris (AFP PHOTO)
National Centre for Defence of Freedoms accuses Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris of  overstepping freedom of expression. (AFP PHOTO)
National Centre for Defence of Freedoms accuses Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris of overstepping freedom of expression. (AFP PHOTO)

The secretary-general of the National Centre for Defence of Freedoms has filed a lawsuit against Naguib Sawiris, the owner of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, and their cartoonist Doaa El-Adl. The lawsuit, filed on Sunday, is in response to a cartoon depicting Adam and Eve, which the Secretary-General of the centre,  Salafist lawyer Khaled El-Masry said was insulting of the prophet.

The cartoon depicts Adam and Eve standing beneath an apple tree on a cloud. Before them stands an Egyptian man with angel wings and a halo, who declares the couple would have never been expelled from heaven had they voted in favour of the referendum.

The cartoon was first discovered by the centre on Saturday. Less than an hour after posting a screenshot and criticism of the article on the centre’s Facebook page, the newspaper removed the cartoon from their online publication. El-Adl said the decision to remove the drawing came after several people posted scathing comments to the drawing on their website.

Nevertheless, the centre announced it would be taking legal action against Sawiris and El-Adl, having already transferred the case to the chief prosecutor for investigation.

El-Adl said she was not worried about the lawsuit because she believes these events are “just deception” and those that politicise Islam look to religion to brainwash people by bringing god closer to the ballot box. “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,” El-Adl added.

El-Adl point the finger at the Muslim Brotherhood for promoting the opinion that art demeans Islam. “Artistic freedom in Egypt is being attacked, and this will send Egypt backwards fast,” she warned.

El-Adl mused at the fact that she was being sued by the secretary-general of a centre aimed at protecting freedoms. This she says is another caricature behind her drawing, “a joke within a joke.” This is not the first time someone has been brought before the law for insulting Islam in one way or another.

“Anyone who tries to draw something with a beard will have it interpreted as an attack on Islam,” El-Adl added, pointing at recent accusations laid against satirist Bassem Youssef and Ibrahim Eissa. She believes Islamists are trying to tarnish the artists’ reputation through such lawsuits, with the aim of forbidding them from saying what they think.

El-Masry defended his position by pointing out that this was not the first time Sawiris has stirred controversy through offensive cartoons. Last year he tweeted a drawing of Mickey and Minnie Mouse garbed in a Niqab which generated a lot of anger.

El-Masry said he could not recommend a punishment, as it was in the hands of the courts to decide, but said that an apology was necessary and perhaps even sufficient. When asked if he believed the goal was to insult a prophet or to make a political statement on the Islamitization of the vote, El-Masry said he was not sure but Christians should not be allowed to criticise Islam and their Prophets.

El-Masry acknowledged that the portrayal of a prophet within Christianity was not forbidden, but accused Sawiris of abusing freedom of speech to insult people and their traditions. “Naguib Sawiris is a Christian, but the people working at his newspaper are Muslims and it should not be allowed.” El-Masry stressed that “the portrayal of prophets is a red line that we will not tolerate being crossed.”

El-Masry concluded that he would defend Christians and their rights if they came under attack.


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