Monday, February 6, 2012

A Witness Who Saw Everything! Adel Imam’s New Egypt

Islamists in Egypt are wasting no time showing the world their governance style. Instead of aiming high and tackling the many serious issues Egypt faces today, they went for the cheap shots first, settling old scores, making it no secret that their priority is to stifle freedom of speech, innovation and the arts under the pretext of “defending” Islam from what they claim are serious threats.

Recently, a court slammed Egypt’s premier comedian Adel Imam with three months in jail for “offending Islam and its symbols through his work over the years!” Is this the beginning of how the Muslim Brotherhood will be conducting its business? This unprecedented move is alarming, irresponsible and unacceptable.

To understand Adel Imam’s stature in the Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, you just needed to run into him at the national airport. Actually, you could not run into him, you could only watch as his security convoy filed through, while you and others watched from a distance. In 2008, when I saw the unmistakable VIP convoy, I asked the taxi driver if this was President Mubarak leaving the airport. The driver told me it was Adel Imam passing through and that only he gets this national honor at the airport in addition to the President.

Imam is a national icon and has always been treated as one not only by the Mubarak regime, but by most Arabs as well. He made generations of Arabs across borders laugh their heart out in films, theater and anywhere he appeared. He is probably best understood as a combination of Jon Stewart, Chevy Chase and Eddy Murphy in one. Now the man who starred for years in the famous “A Witness Who Saw Nothing,” is starring in a real-life drama as the witness who saw it all.

For those who were waiting to see what the Islamists will do when they reach power and for those who believed in giving the Muslim Brotherhood a chance at governance, this action against Adel Imam is a terrible start and a disgrace not only for Egypt and its artistic expression and innovation but for the entire region and the world.

If the Muslim Brotherhood wants to put Adel Imam in jail for allegedly offending Islam through his work, does that make the millions of Imam fans who enjoyed his work over the years, paid money to watch him perform his art with his unique witty talent, guilty too? Who will be next? And where are these illogical claims going? Questions every concerned Arab should ask, and unfair actions that everyone should denounce.


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband is a very devout Muslim and he enjoys movies because we can learn from them. Adel Imam is an actor I am familiar with, and I don't even speak Arabic. I have probably seen 20 of his movies. He plays good guys, bad guys and grey ones (no one is all good or bad). If he makes us see our own weaknesses and hypocrisis, we should learn from it and get that prod at our conscience. When he is being reformed, we should see that we can be reformed. When we see him making bad decisions (as a Muslim or a Masri) we need to take those lessons too. Thats what art can do for us. Sometimes he makes us laugh at ourselves, because in his humanity, we see our own foolishness. I get all this and I don't even speak the language.He isn't tall or handsome or in any way amazing other than he has got us all by the heart-if for no other reason than we recognize him like a favorite relative or neighbor. He is part of the life and he is the Misr I first met-he is the best and worst of Egypt, he is very real. I hate that this is happening to him. His characters playing a 'bad' Muslim may not give a good impression, but isn't Hosni Mubarak himself proof that there is corruption in Misr? Black Honey showed Egypt in a way that Egyptians understand (and I didn't even need my husband to translate that one!) It's a beautiful mess. It is good and bad,generous and greedy, helpful and inefficient, cruel and kind, violent and gentle, hateful and loving. Egypt is the very cradle of humanity itself and humanity is not all good or pretty. Egypt is real and Adel Imam plays real characters (Ok, sometimes ridiculous, but sometimes Egypt IS ridiculous!) I think this is a shame. He is in almost every movie I have seen from Egypt-are they going to jail all the writers, directors and distributors? A slippery slope indeed.

February 6, 2012 at 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adel Imams films did not insult religion as he is being accused of doing. They criticized extremism in religion. His accusation only goes to confirm the intolerance and close- mindedness of Islamists in Egypt...it just goes to prove that his negative portrayal of them is justified. For Shame!!!

February 9, 2012 at 5:12 AM  

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