Ahmed al-Zind quickly realised his mistake after saying on TV that he would jail anyone who broke the law, but his apology was too late
Egypt’s justice minister has been sacked after saying on television that would arrest the Prophet Mohammed if he broke the law, comments that sparked outrage across the country.
His dismissal was announced in a terse government statement.
“Prime Minister Sharif Ismail decided to dismiss justice minister Ahmed al-Zend from his post,” the premier’s office said without giving the reason for the decision.
Mr Zend sparked outrage on social media over the weekend and a warning from Cairo-based Sunni Islam learning centre 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, Mr Zind said he would imprison anyone.
“Even if it’s a prophet, God’s peace and blessings be upon him,” said Mr Zend, using the Islamic saying of reverence spoken by Muslims only when referring to the Prophet Mohammed.
Upon realising what he had said, he 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 Zend” 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.
“God will take revenge,” said another.
Mr Zend 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 outlawed Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
His latest comment drew a stern warning from Al-Azhar against 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.
Mr Zend 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 … but the Muslim Brotherhood supporters seized on them”.