Minister of Justice Ahmed Al-Zind has faced severe backlash following his statement on Friday, when he said: “I will imprison anyone who does wrong, even Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) himself.”
Al-Zind’s comment came during an interview on TV anchor Hamdy Rizk’s show broadcast on the privately-owned channel Sada El-Balad, in response to Rizk’s question on imprisoning journalists.
He backtracked immediately and pleaded for forgiveness, and continued to say: “Judges themselves can be imprisoned if they do something wrong.”
Nonetheless, wrath erupted on social media following the statement, calling for his immediate resignation for insulting Prophet Mohammed, and accusing him of “contempt of religion”.
In a phone call with TV anchor Ahmed Moussa on Saturday, Al-Zind said he had no intention to insult the prophet and that all Muslims can only be held accountable based on their intention.
He claimed that his retort came out in an unfortunate, controversial way as the question was provocative. “I’m afraid that one of the journalists is responsible for this hassle following the statement,” Al-Zind added.
He concluded by saying that he knows he will be forgiven and his apology will be accepted because “the prophet forgave his enemies”.
Conversely, MP Haytham El-Hariry told Daily News Egypt that Al-Zind’s statement was unacceptable by all measures, and the official authorities should be the ones to intervene and take firm measures against the minister of justice’s words.
The statement is offensive not only to the judiciary system but also to the state, El-Hariry added.
“When an ordinary citizen commits a crime, the maximum penalties are imposed upon him. When someone who holds important position commits the same crime, they hide behind their position and evade the law,” El-Hariry concluded, stressing that this is the main cause of corruption.
In a statement, lawyer Nabih El-Wahsh said he will file a lawsuit to dismiss El-Zind from his position.
“Al-Zind has made too many provocative statements, such as threatening to kill thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Along with his latest statements, this should result in his immediate dismissal,” El-Wahsh said.
TV anchor Youssef Al-Housseiny condemned Al-Zind’s statements and questioned the minster will be referred to trial for contempt of religion, further enquiring: “Or are we, the citizens, the only ones who are put on trial?”
Al-Azhar released a statement on Sunday in which it highlighted the importance of avoiding mentions of the prophet in the media, to avoid any unintentional insults.
Meanwhile, prominent lawyer Tarek El-Awady said Islam El-Beheiry was arrested on charges of contempt of religion for “insulting the divine”, but Al-Zind insulted the prophet himself and it seems like no one cares, including Al-Azhar.
Conversely, head of the Judges’ Club Abdullah Fathy told Daily News Egypt that Al-Zind’s comment was a mere slip of the tongue, and Al-Zind did not intend to insult anyone as he has a strong religious background, having studied Islamic doctrine.
“Some of the prophet’s companions made the same mistake and the prophet forgave them,” Fathy continued.
Fathy concluded by saying that the Brotherhood are behind the outrage as they took the phrase out of context in order to defame to anyone who participated in their ouster.
Al-Zind’s lawyer Essam Agag also contended that it was a slip of tongue and was not said intentionally. “It is well-known that El-Zind is a religious man and cannot accept any kind of insult directed at the prophet,” Agag added.
Al-Zind was compared to previous minister of justice Mahfouz Saber, who resigned over comments in which he said that the sons of garbage collectors are unfit to occupy the position of a judge.
This is not the first time Al-Zind has faced backlash over provocative comments; earlier this year, he said that he is ready to kill thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members as revenge for the deaths of martyrs from police and armed forces.
Further, in March 2013, when he was the head of the Judges’ Club, he said those who oppose the employment of judges’ sons in the judiciary system will be disappointed, because it will not cease, likening the process to a “holy march”.
His statement followed protests held by top law school graduates demanding employment in the general prosecution authority, to which Al-Zind responded saying that they would not be employed.
Al-Zind also sparked ire when he said the average Egyptian citizen is capable of living on EGP 2-3 per day; the statement caused wide censure owing to judges’ high salaries, which continue to increase.