On July 30, Bishoy Kamel was arrested in Egypt for sharing cartoons on Facebook that allegedly defamed the Islamic faith and the Prophet Muhammad. The 32 year-old Coptic Christian teacher from Sohag Province could face up to 5 years in prison. Egyptian citizen Mohamed Safwat pressed the charges, claiming that Kamel also insulted President Mohamed Morsi and his family. Although Kamel admitted to managing the Facebook page, he argues that he was not responsible for the controversial content, especially since the page was hacked the weekend prior to his arrest.
This is not the first time members of a religious minority in Egypt have faced criminal charges of insulting the Islamic faith as a result social media usage. Earlier this year, a court sentenced 17 year-old Gamal Abdou Massoud, also reportedly Christian, to three years in prison for uploading cartoons of Muhammad to Facebook and sharing them with friends. Massoud was tried in juvenile court, and received the maximum sentence allowed by law.
In January, Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris was arrested for posting pictures of Mickey and Minnie mouse in Islamic garb on micro-blogging site Twitter. He was later acquitted in court.
Tensions between Muslims and minority Coptic Christians have been on the rise for a number of years, but relations have markedly worsened since last year’s Arab Spring. On Tuesday, Muslim and Coptic leaders in the US petitioned the Egyptian government to exclude Shariah law in the new constitution. Egypt’s new constitution will be announced by the end of this week.