09/19/2012, 00.00
EGYPT

As Coptic teacher is jailed for insulting President Morsi, the Arab Spring enters its twilight

Bishoy Kamel gets two years in prison for posting a Muhammad cartoon on Facebook, and three for insulting President Morsi. Not since the king's era did anyone get such punishment. Moderate Muslims are now wondering if the authorities would defend Christian symbols as forcefully as they do Muslim ones.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Christians and moderate Muslims are concerned and shocked by the six-year sentence inflicted on Bishoy Kamel, a Christian teacher who posted online satirical cartoons on Islam on 30 July, and allegedly insulted Egypt's president. In front of the courthouse where the trial was held, hundreds of Salafists gathered ready to lynch the offender. Sources close to Kamel's family say that he was beaten in prison. The sentence was passed yesterday, but Kamel's lawyers have already appealed for a retrial by a less biased court.

Nagui Damian, a young Catholic Coptic activist, and a leader in the Jasmine Revolution, told AsiaNews that the sentence has shaken Christians and Muslims, who are afraid of some peculiar positions taken by the president. The last time someone got three years in jail for insulting the head of state, King Farouk was still in power. He was overthrown in 1952.

Nagui Damian said that many Muslims protested and wrote letter to newspapers and online forums, saying that six years in prison for posting cartoons offensive to Islam and insulting President Mohammed Morsi was too much.

During his 30 years of power, even Mubarak was more indulgent. In 2007, a young blogger, Kareem Amer, got only one year for insulting the president.

Other cases involving insults to Islam or the president were settled with fines or a few months in jail.

In the recent wave of anti-American demonstrations caused by the blasphemous Muhammad tape, some Muslim journalists have asked whether the same punishment would have been inflicted on someone who insulted the symbols of other religions, like Christianity.

For the moment, police arrested another activist, Albert Saber, who posted the blasphemous movie trailer online.

According to Nagui Damian, religious minorities and moderate Muslims must speak out to stop Islamists from influencing international organisations and hijack the Jasmine Revolution.

"All Coptic religious authorities have criticised the offensive acts against the Islamic religion. For every Egyptian, Christian or Muslim, insulting religion is a shameful act that must be punished, but there must be impartiality. For this reason, it makes no sense to ask the United Nations to adopt a law on Islamophobia as some Muslim leaders have suggested. The Egyptian state and the International community must defend all religions, not one in particular."

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