Egypt’s Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind was removed from his position on Sunday after he said that even the Prophet Muhammad would be jailed if he broke the law.
In response to a question about imprisoning journalists, Al-Zind told an Egyptian private satellite TV channel on Friday that he “will jail anyone who does wrong, even the Prophet [Muhammad], peace be upon him, God forbid.”
The former head of Egypt’s Judges’ Club has been under fire since then, with members of parliament, talk show hosts and social media users all angrily calling for his dismissal.
An Arabic language hashtag demanding the trial of Al-Zind became one of Egypt’s top trending topics on Twitter.
Al-Zind is no stranger to controversy, and his proclivity for fiery comments has put him in the spotlight in the past.
“Whatever represents an attack on the judiciary’s prestige, dignity and respect will not pass lightly. On the land of this nation, we are the masters and the rest are the slaves,” he once told a TV program, threatening anyone who criticized Egyptian judiciary verdicts.
Al-Zind is an ardent supporter of former president Hosni Mubarak and current president Abdel Fattah Sisi. He made no secret of his opposition to the Jan. 25, 2011, revolt that ended Mubarak’s rule, calling protesters a “mob”.
He accused anyone who opposed the rule of the post-Mubarak interim Supreme Council of Armed Forces of being a “traitor,” and defended President Sisi’s economic policies by claiming that Egyptians should be able to live on two Egyptian pounds per day ($0.12).
Al-Zind’s predecessor, former justice minister Mahfouz Saber, also left office on the heels of controversial remarks. Saber resigned in May after he said that the sons of garbage collectors are unfit to be appointed to higher judiciary posts, inciting public outrage.
Al-Zind made headlines soon after his appointment, when he announced a push for new regulations that would criminalize parents of convicted terrorists.
Egypt’s judiciary has been heavily criticized since the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in July 2013, and hundreds of jail and execution verdicts have been issued against Morsi’s Islamist supporters.