An Egyptian television station fired a prominent Muslim cleric after he made anti-Christian statements during an episode of his show on private Al Mehwar television, sparking outrage in Egypt, Al Ahram English reported on Thursday.
Salem Abdel-Geliel, a former deputy minister for proselytisation at the Ministry of Religious Endowments, described Christians as non-believers and labelled their beliefs as "corrupted" during his explanation of a Quranic verse on his TV show Muslims ask, earlier this week.
His comments led to the termination of his contract with the television channel and in a statement its officials explained that what Abdul-Geliel said about Christians does not "express the message of Al Mehwar TV that has since its launch in 2002 advocated freedom of expression but without hurting others’ feelings."
Abdel Galil had presented his daily show on the channel since early 2016.
Charges pressed against Abdel-Geliel
After the uproar, lawyer Naguib Gibrail filed a lawsuit against the cleric saying his speech displayed contempt of religion, threatened national unity, disrupted public peace and incited the killing of Christians.
A Cairo misdemeanor court has set June 24 as a date to start his trial on charges of contempt of religion.
Egypt's Ministry of Endowments also said that Abdel-Geliel would be banned from giving sermons at ministry-affiliated mosques until he issues an apology.
Since then, Abdel-Geliel has apologized for offending people's feelings and has also stressed that describing Christians the way he did doesn’t carry any sort of incitement to violence against Christians or followers of any other religion.
In the wake of Abdel-Geliel's comments and the decision to press charges against him, thousands have taken to social media to express their thoughts.
The issue has sparked debate on social media platforms and while many are tweeting their anger towards the cleric's comments via the hashtag #حاكموا_سالم_عبد_الجليل (Prosecute_Salem_Abdel_Geliel) others are tweeting in his support.
Thousands were angered by the anti-Christian statements
"What benefit do you gain when you call me a non-believer? You should be looking after your work, children and life instead of calling people non-believers."
"I don't think his apology is enough because he's still insisting on calling the Christian faith 'corrupt,' this isn't the first time we've heard something like this and it won't be the last."
"I'd like to tell you (referring to Abdel-Geliel): What's it to you? On the day of judgment we're going to be judged by God, not by anyone else. Religion belongs to God and our nation belongs to all of us."
Others supported Abdel-Geliel
"You're calling on him to be persecuted because he spoke the truth at a time when hypocrisy rules."
"I stand with Sheikh Salem Abdel-Geliel and refuse to accept his prosecution."
And some shared a message of tolerance at a time when it's needed most
"We're all one, both Muslims and Copts. I take pride in saying that."