- Title: Egyptian film 'Mawlana' provokes outcry over view of religion and state
- Date: 23rd January 2017
- Summary: CAIRO, EGYPT (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SCREEN WRITER AND DIRECTOR OF 'MAWLANA', MAGDY AHMED, DURING INTERVIEW (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DIRECTOR OF 'MAWLANA', MAGDY AHMED ALI, SAYING: "The entire country is suffering from violence, half of the Egyptian army has been fighting in Sinai for over three years, and is still unable to eradicate this violence, because it has spread, and is rooted amongst us, and we have unfortunately contributed to the spread of this violence. So of course, it is definitely the time (for this film to be released), every day there are martyrs from the police, the army and even normal citizens, blood is being spilt every day in the entire region. If you look around you, you will find Yemen, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, it is unbelievable that all this violence was caused because of the interference of religion in politics. Religion has exploited politics and politics has exploited religion." ROADSIDE BILLBOARD ADVERT FOR 'MAWLANA'
- Embargoed: 6th February 2017 12:04
- Keywords: Egypt film religion box office Cairo politics power movie
- Location: CAIRO, EGYPT AND UNIDENTIFIED FILM LOCATIONS
- City: CAIRO, EGYPT AND UNIDENTIFIED FILM LOCATIONS
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Arts/Culture/Entertainment,Film
- Reuters ID: LVA00460AUZBP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: An Egyptian box office hit that highlights the religious establishment's cosy relations with the state has provoked a backlash from Sunni Muslim clerics, with some calling for the film to be banned.
Adapted from a novel by prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa, "Mawlana" ("The Preacher") tells the story of a popular television preacher who struggles to reconcile his religious principles with demands and pressures from politicians and security agencies as well as ordinary human temptations.
Through the protagonist, a cleric from Al-Azhar, Cairo's 1,000-year-old centre of Islamic learning, the film lays bare the complex and troubling interplay between the state, religious establishment, mass media and Islamist extremism in Egypt.
"This triangle exists in Egypt and the Arab world in a shocking way. I believe it is responsible for all the intellectual, political, and social decline we are in," Eissa, who helped adapt the script for cinema, said.
"The Preacher" is showing to packed houses in regular commercial cinemas, not just a few art houses in the capital.
It had raked in 7.3 million Egyptian pounds ($388,300) by its third week - a strong showing for a local film.
"The film was very good, much better than I had expected. I don't usually go for political films, but honestly, I hope that we can all believe that we are all one and there is one God, and we should leave it up to him to decide who's going to heaven or not, because God loves us all and bestows his mercy on us all. This really is the message that the film clearly communicated," said Marian Heshmat, who had just watched the film.
Life imitated art the day after the film's premiere.
In the movie's dramatic climax, a young man blows up a church and the day after the premiere, a suicide bomber killed 28 people in an attack claimed by Islamic State on Cairo's main Coptic Christian cathedral.
Clerics at Al-Azhar have responded angrily to the film, which they say tarnishes the image of establishment Islam just as it steps up efforts to rein in violent extremism.
Sameh Mohamed, a preacher at Al-Azhar said the film, in which the televangelist initially bends to the demands of senior officials before having a change of heart, paints clerics as unprincipled and state-controlled.
"If you see this portrayal of the imam, what will happen when you walk into a mosque after watching this movie, how do you look at the imam, in what way, how will you look at him? You will only see what you saw in the movie and it will take root in reality," he said.
Film director Magdy Ahmed Ali begs to differ.
"If you look around you, you will find Yemen, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, it is unbelievable that all this violence was caused because of the interference of religion in politics. Religion has exploited politics and politics has exploited religion," he said.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief, overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013 and is still battling radical Islamists.
Sisi has made combating extremism a priority and assigned Al-Azhar a central role in defending mainstream Islam. Egyptian courts have jailed thousands of Muslim Brotherhood followers during his rule.
Shortly after the military ousted the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in mid-2013, the religious endowments ministry fired 55,000 preachers not authorised by Al-Azhar.
The preachers were accused of inciting violence, spreading extremist views or supporting the Brotherhood, the world's oldest Islamist movement.
The Brotherhood, which has been outlawed as a terrorist organisation, says it is peaceful.
Apart from Sunni-Shi'ite tensions, the film also explores the origins and effects of sectarian tensions that have flared in recent years between Muslims and Christians. Egypt's Copts are the largest Christian minority in the Middle East, making up about 10 percent of the country's 83 million population.
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