Egyptian telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris has come under fire for tweeting cartoons of Mickey Mouse in a conservative Islamic beard and Minnie Mouse in a face veil.
Sawiris, who is a Coptic Christian and one of the country’s richest men, had re-posted the Mickey Mouse cartoons on Twitter.
The images show Mickey Mouse with a full beard and wearing a traditional Arabic robe. Minnie Mouse is wearing a niqab — a full-body veil — with just her eyes visible. She is identifiable by her large ears and hair ribbon.
The images were already circulating online before Sawiris re-posted them.
Sawiris apologized on Twitter for tweeting the cartoon and said he meant no offence.
"I apologize for those who don't take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry," he tweeted.
Ultraconservative Islamists in Egypt, known as Salafis, called the cartoon posted by Sawiris on Twitter a mockery of Islam.
More than 60,000 people have joined Facebook groups condemning him. One of the Facebook groups is named "We hate you Mickey Sawiris," and depicts Sawiris as Mickey Mouse. The group's motto is: "No to mockery of Islam."
Lawyers from the Salafi movement, which is a purist Islamic sect, have filed a formal complaint against him, and there are calls for a boycott of his businesses, including his telecom company Orascom, which owns Egypt’s largest cell phone company, Mobinil.
The Mickey Mouse cartoon controversy comes at a time of tension between Christians and Muslims in Egypt.
"How can a man like this make fun of Muslims, in a country on the brink of sectarian discord," Muslim cleric Mazen el-Sersawi said, according to the BBC.
"If this is just joking, why don't you depict Mickey Mouse as a monk or a nun?"