Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Church yesterday disowned a former priest for making derogatory statements about Islam and Prophet Muhammad. In an official statement, the church said that its relationship with Zakaria Botros was cut "more than 18 years ago."
On Saturday, a video of Botros insulting Islam and the Prophet went viral on social media, causing an outrage among Muslims around the world. The video showed Botros saying that the Prophet was "drunk when he wrote the Quran."
According to the church authorities, "Botros was a priest in Egypt and was moved between several churches. He introduced teachings that do not conform to the Orthodox doctrine… and so was suspended for a period of time."
The church went on to say that he had apologised for "propagating these teachings", explaining that he had then moved to "Australia then the United Kingdom, where his teachings were again unorthodox." During all that time, it added, the Church had tried to correct his thought.
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"Abuse and defamation are not compatible with the true Christian spirit," said the official statement, "which has love and full respect for all our Muslim brothers."
Several activists and public figures went on social media to affirm that the controversial priest was not "representing the Christians of Egypt". They launched a hashtag — #PunishZakariaBotros — which trended on Twitter.
Botros's comments came just days after Egyptian TV presenter Ibrahim Eissa criticised a pharmacist for reading the Qur'an during working hours. "Why do I have to step into a pharmacy store and find a young pharmacist sitting and reading the Qur'an? At least read a medical reference that could help you in your job," he said, while also criticising the Egyptian education system.