Egypt’s Most Popular Comedian Guilty of Insulting Islam

AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- The verdict of a popular Egyptian comedian convicted of offending Islam has been upheld by a Cairo court, raising fears among Egyptian liberals and secularists about the Islamic tide rising since the downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Adel Imam, one of the Arab world’s most famous actors, was first convicted in February of “contempt of religion” – illegal under Egypt’s penal code – and appealed. The case was brought against him by an ultra-conservative Islamist lawyer named Asran Mansour for three films Imam made in the early- to mid-1990s. The titles are The Terrorist, Morgan Ahmed Morgan and Terrorism and Kebab.

Imam, 71, played a fundamentalist terrorist in the first and a corrupt businessman in the third. Mansour accused Imam of blasphemous mocking of Muslim symbols like beards and the jilbab, a loose-fitting robe worn by some Muslims.

The sentence was three months in jail and 1000 Egyptian pounds, around $170. Imam’s lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict that was “given on the wrong legal basis.”

Condemnations poured in from Egypt’s art world and beyond. The Egyptian Creativity Front said the ruling would limit the freedom of expression and lead to restriction on art. Author of The Yacoubian Building Alaa al-Aswany said on Twitter that he disagrees with Imam politically, but the ruling sends Egypt “back to the darkness of the Middle Ages.”

“This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations,” Aswany wrote.

“[Imam's case] will make any writer, director or actor think before considering the role of a Muslim figure,” Egyptian entertainment reporter Tarek el-Shinnawi told Al Ahram newspaper.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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