Saturday, July 12, 2008

Omar Sharif and other Arabs in a changing world

Egyptian Movie Star Omar Al-Sharif: Americans Are Ignorant; We Arabs Prefer the Neighborhood Sheik to Democracy

The link is a clip to an interview he did for Al-Hayat TV. The title annoyed me. When I watched the clip, I was a little more sympathetic, but not too much. He claims that Americans are ignorant because the majority of Americans don't travel outside of North America.

I'm pretty sure the majority of the people in the Middle East don't travel outside of the Middle East either; they aren't all wealthy jet-setters like himself, but the irony seems lost on him. Then he goes on about how the Middle East will never be democratic, and how the sheiks solve everything, etc.

Now it's not easy to criticize him on this point, because there is truth to what he says; it will never be just like the West, nor should it be. However, he's also part of an older generation that's resisting change. I don't say that's necessarily bad, but the world he knew is disappearing, and it's going to be replaced with something else, whether he likes it or not. The system he embraces works slowly, and is part of the past. The modern world moves much faster now, and the Arab world is being pulled into it, regardless. They need to adapt and find accommodation to it, in a way that works for them.

I don't think George Bush meant to make the Middle East a carbon copy of ourselves, yet he did recognize the need for change in the Middle East; that a state with modern technology requires some form of modern governance. Exactly HOW that government would form, and what it would turn out LIKE, are the gamble that Bush has taken, and we have yet to fully see the results, as the venture is still on-going.

So while I can't completely agree with al-Sharif, I also know he's not completely wrong either. The Old Arab World and the New Modern World are clashing; helping them to accommodate each other is the task before us. It's not easy, but neither can it be avoided, it MUST happen; the best we can do is try to help it along, even though the road is difficult.

As for Sharif himself, it's difficult to know exactly where he stands:

Egypt: Omar Sharif Defends Muslim Brotherhood
[...] Famous for his roles in David Lean's visually sumptuous productions Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr Zhivago (1965), he is better known for his bridge-playing expertise nowadays than for his acting. He still acts, yet for some bizarre reason, Muslim extremists have attacked him for his screen roles.


On a web message board which had previously been used by al Qaeda, a Muslim called "bachirma1" wrote: "Omar Sharif has stated that he has embraced the crusader idolatry. He is a crusader who is offending Islam and Muslims and receiving applause from the Italian people. I give you this advice, brothers, you must kill him."

Now, according to AKI, Omar Sharif, while addressing the organisers of the Cairo Film Festival, has bizarrely said that the infamous Muslim Brotherhood is not a threat to freedom of expression.

Banned in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwanu I-Muslimin or Hizb al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimoon) is quietly tolerated. In the Egyptian parliament, 88 of the 454 seats are taken by Muslim Brotherhood MPs, who entered September's elections passing themselves off as "independents".

Omar Sharif said: "I have know them for a long time and I remember that some members of the organisations in the 1950s were like me passionate about the avant garde in cinema and theatre."

"The Muslim Brotherhood does not threaten artistic freedom and I don't think that in the areas of innovation and art there is anything to fear from their strong presence in parliament."

He also claimed that "their victory at the last parliamentary elections is not a negative thing."

Apart from the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has killed its opponents, and its former spiritual leader, Sayyid Qutb, advocated killing as a political tool, the Muslim Brotherhood is Islamist in nature. Ayman al-Zawahiri was a member of the group before becoming a member of Egyptian Jihad and now al Qaeda.

The Muslim Brotherhood has given birth to many radical groups, including the terror group Hamas. The Brotherhood is also passionately anti-semitic and incites on its children's website hatred against Jews and Americans. It also indoctrinates the minds of its child surfers that it is a duty to wage armed jihad.

But if 74-year old Omar Sharif really believes that the Muslim Brotherhood supports creativity and freedom of speech, perhaps he is suffering senile deterioration. [...]

(bold emphasis mine) Is he trying to straddle two worlds? Are there subtleties at work here that we've missed? Both? Neither? Or is he just Egypt's version of Susan Sarandon, bending over backwards to embrace those who would kill us?

Did you know that Sharif started life as a Christian, and converted to Islam? And now he says he's an atheist? Read the whole thing for more interesting information about Sharif's background and career, with many embedded links.

As for Sharif's comments about ignorance in America, he shouldn't neglect to look in his own back yard as well. I don't have enough time to blog about all the ignorant things many Sheiks and Imams in the Middle East say about America and the West. Imams telling their followers lies, real whoppers, lies such as that Americans burn down movie theaters that show films critical of Christianity, as if to demonstrate that violent religious intolerance is normal in the rest of the world. The infamous Danish Cartoon riots were started by deliberate lies that were spread about the cartoons, to create the riots.

Perhaps more of the "neighborhood Sheiks" need to work on addressing the ignorance being preached in their neighborhoods? Occasionally, while looking through the many videos on, I have seen sheiks and imams doing just that. Brave souls! I applaud them, and hope we start to see many more. For the sake of the Middle East. For the sake of us all.

Related Links:

State Islam and a modern society are incompatible

The Nazi roots of the Muslim Brotherhood

Islamism's actual NAZI history

Wikipedia: Omar Sharif


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Chas said...

I have read some of the works of Sayyid Qutb and found them deeply disturbing. That, and the history of the MB, make it hard for me to believe that anything good could come of it.

I haven't seen much on those links that I find reassuring, and I have no way of knowing if what is on your English Language site is the same as what you publish for your Middle Eastern readership.

I have suspected that perhaps there are moderate elements in the MB, which causes people like al-Sharif to support it. But he is also an actor; my experience of actors in general, is that they are often flaky, irrational, overly emotional people with nonsensical views. I'm not inclined to regard their opinions with a lot of respect.

That being said, I also admit that I don't know al-Sharif personally, nor am I an authority on the many facets of Egyptian politics. Thus, I'll let your post with your links stand, as an alternative perspective.