By Madeleine Hillyer,
International News Assistant Editor
Egypt’s Prime Minister removed Ahmed el-Zend from his position as Minister of Justice on Sunday, Mar. 13, after the minister’s recent televised remarks referencing the Prophet Muhammed.
When asked questions about jailing journalists, Minister El-Zend said that he would jail anyone, “even if it’s the prophet – peace and prayers upon him,” as quoted by Al Jazeera. The minister quickly repented, according to the BBC, saying, “God forgive me,” and went on to apologize the following day.
However, his on-air repentance and subsequent apology was not enough to shield him from backlash. Egyptian and other social media were abuzz with critics denouncing Zend and his comments.
Yousef el-Houseiny, an Egyptian television personality, spoke out against Zend on his show, saying that he, “cannot moderate his own speech, nor can he control his outbursts,” according to Al-Jazeera. Others tweeted out messages calling for his removal from office, bringing up other controversies that had previously surrounded the politician.
Just last year, Minister el-Zend caused controversy over his desire for the deaths of 400,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in exchange for fallen Egyptian soldiers, according to Al Jazeera.
The Egyptian government issued a statement several days after the minister’s remarks, saying, “Prime Minister Sherif Ismail issued a decree today to relieve Ahmed al-Zend … of his position,” as quoted by the BBC.
No other details were included in the statement, nor have any more been released.
The Judges Club of Egypt issued a strong statement of support for former Minister el-Zend. They expressed their interpretation of the incident as a slip of the tongue that could have happened to anyone, and highlighted his immediate repentance and the full apology he released the next day.
As BBC reported, Judge Abdallah Fath said, “Egypt’s judges are sorry that someone who defended Egypt and its people, judiciary and nation … should be punished in this way.”
Minister el-Zend had always been a strong opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political movements.
He gained increased support after the Islamist movement which had overthrown former leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 was removed by the military and outlawed in 2013, according to the BBC.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.
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