In June, Egyptian telecommunications billionaire Naguib Sawiris tweeted a cartoon of Minnie Mouse in a burqa, and Islamists worldwide threatened him with death.
Now, as Egypt wavers between an Islamist and a democratic future, Sawiris wants to be his country’s next leader – and he’s founded a political party – the Free Egyptian Party — as he prepares to do just that, writes Abigail Esman for Forbes magazine”
According to the Art newspaper, Sawiris, who stands at number 310 on the Forbes billionaire list (he’s #2 in Egypt, just behind his father, Onsi, and one ahead of his younger brother), aims not only to establish a secular democratic government in Egypt, but to crown his plans with a national museum that will house his own collection of modern and contemporary art. (Many in the global art world may also recognize him as the one who pledged a $175,000 reward for the return of Van Gogh’s Poppies” stolen from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum in August, 2010 – a museum that also reportedly housed works by other major 19th century masters like Renoir, Gauguin, and Monet.)
Such philanthropy runs in the Sawaris family, which has shown itself to be deeply committed to cultural achievement and the kinds of experimental arts that define a forward-looking, democratic society: Onsi Sawiris’ Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, for instance, offers annual prizes to young novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights with an eye towards stimulating Egypt’s literary scene – even its more controversial works.