This Film Screening Wants to Repair Muslim-Christian Relationships in Egypt

In a first-of-its-kind event last Thursday, Al-Ahram Weekly screened Alexander Kronemer’s award-winning The Sultan and the Saint at Al-Ahram’s Naguib Mahfouz Hall. One of several docudramas intended to promote interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, the film tells the story of the encounter between Saint Francis of Assisi and the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamel Mohamed, which took place near Damietta in 1219 during the Fifth Crusade. Narrated by Jeremy Irons and featuring Alexander McPherson and Zack Beyer as the saint and the sultan, respectively, it is produced and promoted by the California-based non-profit Unity Productions Foundation.

The Al-Ahram screening, its Egypt premiere, was made possible thanks to the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City initiative headed by Egyptian-American businessman Tharwat Abu Raya, who coordinated with the Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Ezzat Ibrahim. The event drew in a large crowd of cultural and media figures. Spotted in the nearly full house were, among many others, the Provincial Minister of the Franciscan Brothers in Egypt Father Kamal Labib, the Armenian Catholic Bishop Krikor Okostinos Coussan, the wife of the Weekly’s late founding editor Hosny Guindy Moushira Abdel-Malik, the celebrated actress and Weekly columnist Lubna Abdel-Aziz, the veteran writer Yacoub Al-Sharouni, the filmmaker Sandra Nashaat, the well-known security expert Brigadier-General Khaled Okasha and the Sawt Al-Azhar magazine Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Sawi.


Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

76535Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

“The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’

“‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.

“How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked. “If it were my father, I could never say this. But this is their faith and religious conviction.”

Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

So also did millions of Copts, recently rediscovering their ancient heritage, according to Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt which subtitled and recirculated the satellite TV clip.

“In the history and culture of the Copts, there is much taught about martyrdom,” he told CT. “But until Libya, it was only in the textbooks—though deeply ingrained.”


How ‘The Jewish Quarter’ became the talk of Cairo

1762344198Ramadan TV shows have become a festive staple, but this year’s hottest features a daring Jewish-Muslim romance.

The Egyptian press has been afire in recent weeks over the broadcast of a new television soap opera, “The Jewish Quarter” (“Harat al-Yahud”), which takes place from 1948 through the mid-1950s.

On the one hand, some critics have praised the series for its portrayal of Egyptian-Jewish characters, for the first time, in a humane and sympathetic manner. For years, they were depicted in a stereotypical, anti-Semitic way. On the other hand, some claimed the Jews were being portrayed in a “too positive” light, and that the Muslim characters were shown in a negative light compared to them. Somewhere in between, many remark that, to the soap opera’s credit, it depicts Egypt’s pluralist and multicultural past. However, at the same time they highlight the questionable way historic events are presented and complain of many mistakes and inaccuracies regarding Jewish traditions, use of language, sets and dress.

“The Jewish Quarter” is airing as part of the Ramadan series that are produced annually and watched by millions of Arab speakers around the world. Most of them have 30 episodes – one for every day of the holy month of Ramadan. They have become a virtual ritual since the late 1980s – much to the chagrin of many a Muslim scholar – in addition to the daily sunrise-to-sunset fast, prayers in the mosque and charity giving.

Numerous Muslims eat their breaking-fast iftar meal in front of the television. In addition to asking who is fasting and who isn’t, the most common question of recent decades has been, “Which series are you watching?”