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Egypt's justice minister fired following comments on 'imprisoning prophet'

Ahmed El-Zend has been facing widespread criticism on social media for making comments that were considered to be blasphemous

Ahram Online , Sunday 13 Mar 2016
Egypt’s justice minister Ahmed El-Zend (Al-Ahram)
Egypt’s justice minister Ahmed El-Zend (Al-Ahram)
Views: 9385
Views: 9385

Egypt’s Justice Minister Ahmed El-Zend was fired on Sunday little less than a year in office in the wake of widespread criticism of comments he made regarding the Muslim Prophet Muhammed that were considered to be blasphemous.

The decision was taken by Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, state-run news agency MENA said. However, Ismail's cabinet is yet to reveal the reasons for sacking El-Zend. 

Last week, in response to a TV host's question on whether he would jail journalists, El-Zend said, "Even if he was a prophet, peace and blessings be upon him."

The 70-year-old then briefly uttered Islamic words of repentance before adding that "the culprit, whatever his description is... I am not talking about jailing a journalist or jailing a teacher, I am saying jailing a defendant."

El-Zend, who is infamous for making controversial media statements, has been facing a wave of criticism on social media after his comments went viral and were largely interpreted as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, the most sacred figure among Muslims and whose sayings comprise a prime source of Islamic jurisprudence.

'Slip of the tongue'

"The thing that a Muslim or a non-Muslim is held culpable for is what is done willfully," El-Zend said when he called in to a TV show on Saturday, stressing that it was a slip of the tongue.

"I ask God Almighty for forgiveness over and over and over again... I know my apology will be accepted [by Prophet Muhammad]."

Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, issued a statement on Sunday warning against blasphemous comments regarding the Prophet, even those made unintentionally.

An Arabic Twitter hashtag calling for his trial went viral in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with numerous Muslim users expressing anger over his comment and heaping scorn on him even after his apology.

Prior to becoming justice minister, El-Zend was the head of the powerful Judges Club, of which the majority of Egyptian judges are members.

Before El-Zend’s sacking was announced, the Judges Club issued a statement saying that they stand by the justice minister in the face of the "systematic smear campaign against him." 

Last May, El-Zend's predecessor Mahfouz Saber resigned as justice minister after saying that sons of garbage collectors should not be judges, which was widely seen as a classist statement and earned him heavy criticism in the days leading up to his resignation.

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13-03-2016 09:32pm
The writing on the wall
He was expected to be fired sooner or later for much more important reasons such the prevailing injustice across all Egyptian courts and the mockery he (and his judges) made of the Egyptian judiciary. The comment was just a pubic trigger. Next on list of to-be-fired is the minister of Interior!
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13-03-2016 08:34pm
because of a comment
He was removed because of this? , so removed the best from his job because he said something against a prophet? lol.. very wise and a great action for a nation that is trying to move away from the dark ages. Egypt will always be 150 years behind the world.
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14-03-2016 09:02am
One man's garbage is other man's treasure
Amazing how a guy who position himself as master over a population of slaves is considered by some as the best minister in this country . Egypt needs a respectable justice system if it wants foreign investors to bring their money over.
13-03-2016 09:00pm
Research before insulting Egypt
This is not the first time he has made fiery remarks. The judiciary process is extremely slow and he didn't seem to take any proactive action which is most likely the reason. His comments are just the icing on the cake for his failure to address the ever slow judicial process.

Sam Enslow
13-03-2016 08:16pm
Appoint a real reformer, please
Anyone who stated, 'We are the masters. The rest are slaves.' should not have been appointed in the first place. I hope the next selection is for someone who respects the law and who desires an efficient, honest legal system that protects the rights of those charged and takes great care that the innocent are set free. There are bad people who deserve to go to jail. Get them regardless of status or wealth. One of the main factors hindering foreign investment and tourism is the reputation of Egypt's legal system. A legal system must be fair and seen to be fair. The rule of law under the constitution will advance the progress of the Egyptian people and the country's international reputation.
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