Egypt's Prime Minister, Sharif Ismail, on Sunday sacked the country's justice minister after he said on television that he would arrest even "a prophet", in remarks deemed to be insulting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, AFP reports.
"Prime Minister Sharif Ismail decided to dismiss justice minister Ahmed al-Zind from his post," a statement from the premier's office said, but without giving the reason for the decision.
According to AFP, Zind sparked outrage on social media over the weekend and a warning from the Cairo-based Sunni Islam learning center Al-Azhar after an interview he gave to private satellite channel Sada al-Balad on Friday.
Un the interview, when asked about a case involving journalists accused of defaming him and whether he would jail them, Zind said he would imprison anyone.
"Even if it's a prophet, God's peace and blessings be upon him," Zind said, using the Islamic saying of reverence spoken by Muslims only when referring to the Prophet Mohammed.
Upon realizing what he had said, Zind immediately stopped and said, "I ask for forgiveness from God."
He also said any "wrongdoer, whatever his identity — even judges" would be jailed if found guilty.
But angry Egyptians would not accept the apology and launched the Twitter hashtag "trial for Zind" as they lashed out at the minister for the remarks.
"At least he should be sacked and then put on trial. This issue is not a joke," said one tweet quoted by AFP.
Zind is the second justice minister to be dismissed in less than a year for controversial comments.
In January he angered human rights when he called for the "mass killing" of outlawed Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the report noted.
His latest comment drew a stern warning from Al-Azhar against insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
"All those involved in public discourse and in the media must respect the name of the Prophet. He should not be subjected to any insult even if it's unintentional," it said in a statement without naming Zind.
Zind tried to clarify his comments in a telephone interview Saturday with private network CBC television, saying they were a mere "slip of the tongue" and adding they were "meant in a hypothetical sense … but the Muslim Brotherhood supporters seized on them".
AFP noted that Zind had taken over as justice minister from Mahfouz Saber, who too was replaced after saying that becoming a judge was too lofty an ambition for the sons of cleaners.
Insulting the Prophet Mohammed is viewed upon sternly in the Muslim world. Cartoons of the prophet deemed to be insulting to him have already enraged Muslims around the world on several occasions and are linked to several terrorist attacks in recent years.
Last January, gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in anger at the magazine's cartoons featuring the Prophet. The magazine had previously been targeted over its portrayal of Mohammed.
Last May, a competition featuring Mohammed cartoons in a suburb of Dallas, Texas came under attack by two gunmen. Police in Arizona later stepped up security near a mosque in Phoenix, where protesters from an anti-Islam group planned to draw cartoons of the prophet.
In 2012, the "Innocence of Muslims" film, which depicted the Muslim prophet as a thuggish deviant, triggered a wave of violent protests in the Muslim world that left dozens dead.