- Title: EGYPT: Ramadan serial about Muslim Brotherhood stirs controversy
- Date: 18th June 2010
- Summary: CAIRO, EGYPT (JUNE 8, 2010) (REUTERS) ACTOR WHO PORTRAYS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD FOUNDER, HASSAN AL-BANNA, EYAD NASSAR, READING FROM SCRIPT OF 'AL-GAMAA' NASSAR TURNING PAGES OF SCRIPT (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ACTOR WHO PORTRAYS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD FOUNDER, HASSAN AL-BANNA, EYAD NASSAR: "The idea that I wanted to communicate through my presentation of the character of Hassan al-Banna, is to present his insight, his ideas, and that comes out of the script, not outside of the script, it's in the script. But also trying to arrive at the justification of this thinking, his way of thinking, to arrive at the changes in his character, to present it as is - to present its content, not the result of this thinking."
- Embargoed: 3rd July 2010 13:00
- Location: Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAB9IIBV45JKRN80UMBKPKJTTO9
- Story Text: A Ramadan serial about the Muslim Brotherhood that takes on the group's origins, political philosophy and rile in Egyptian society, looks set to stir controversy when it begins airing in August.
Ramadan TV serials that take on controversial topics are something of a tradition in Egypt, and this year promises to be no exception, with a highly anticipated series about the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, sure to rouse debate when it airs in August.
"Al-Gamaa", penned by renowned screenwriter Wahid Hamid and directed by Mohamed Yassin, takes on the group's origins, political philosophy and role in Egyptian society, and Hamid says the series has already drawn sharp criticism from the Brotherhood.
Hamid is no stranger to controversy, having written the screenplay for the Yacoubian Building, which dealt with the many political and social ills of today's Egypt, and more recently Ehky Ya Sharazad, which approached women's issues through the radio talk show host protagonist.
But it was what he says is the lack of understanding of Egypt's most influential opposition group that motivated Hamid's latest project.
"So I've passed sixty [years old] and I don't know anything about them [the Muslim Brotherhood], I said to myself, the new generation, the generation that is here now, has the right to know. For this reason, I made the series in order to present to the public who the Muslim Brotherhood are, in a very neutral way, because I am someone who searches for the truth and not for things that are untrue. And it turned out that the Muslim Brotherhood is just like anyone else -- they have vices and virtues," he said.
As seen in the trailer being aired for the first time, "Al-Gamaa" uses the military-style parade held by young Brotherhood members on the campus of al-Azhar University in late 2006 and a subsequent government crackdown as the starting point for a journey into the lives and struggles of the group's members and their clash with the Egyptian government.
While the Brotherhood is officially banned, members were elected as independents in the 2005 elections gaining 88 seats in the 454-seat lower house of parliament. The group says its aim is to persuade Egyptians through democratic means to choose an Islamic state.
The Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s and has focused on politics and building popular support through social, medical and welfare networks, education and professional syndicates.
It has nonetheless been at loggerheads with the secular ruling party which seeks to contain its influence and vision for an Islamic state.
Since the last Parliamentary elections, President Hosni Mubarak's government has been squeezing the Brotherhood out of mainstream politics and has made it nearly impossible for the group to put up a candidate to succeed him.
The government has warned that if the Muslim Brotherhood takes power, Egypt could face international isolation.
Series scribe Wahid Hamid says the group's attacks on the series have demonstrated their intolerance for scrutiny.
"The Muslim Brotherhood declared war a long time ago, and that war is still underway on the internet and Facebook, and there are a lot of insults and things like that. But a small point recently came to my attention - they had suspected me of being an agent for the government and they said that it was the government that was financing the film, in order to tarnish the Brotherhood, and to remain against them, and to tarnish their image, and consequently the coming Parliamentary electionsâ€¦ so, are they saying the government is dependant on me to go after them? And there are elections that just happened and they got no votes, and there was no TV series involved. So that's not the issue. This is just wrong. I appreciate honourable opposition. But I'm not an opponent, I'm not their opponent. The person who tells the truth is an opponent? Who says this? The truth will benefit them and the truth will show their faults. So why are they upset?" he said.
While the 30 part series begins in recent present, it soon goes back into the Brotherhood's past and delves into the life of founder Hassan al-Banna, played in the series by Jordanian actor Eyad Nassar.
Schoolteacher Al-Banna founded the group in 1928 and saw the group as a bulwark against the rise of secularism and influence by the West, and a vehicle for the anti-colonial struggle.
The group's membership grew exponentially in the late 1930s and 1940s, and continued to flourish even after al-Banna's assassination, apparently by government agents, in 1949.
Jordanian actor Nassar says that he was less interested in imitating al-Banna, of whom little documentary evidence exists, than he was in trying to understand the formative experiences that made him who he was.
"The idea that I wanted to communicate through my presentation of the character of Hassan al-Banna, is to present his insight, his ideas, and that comes out of the script, not outside of the script, it's in the script. But also trying to arrive at the justification of this thinking, his way of thinking, to arrive at the changes in his character, to present it as is - to present its content, not the result of this thinking," he said.
While the series takes on weighty subject matter, like any good Ramadan serial it is also meant to entertain, and boasts an ensemble cast of characters familiar to Egyptian audiences.
In addition to Nassar, Ahmed el-Fishawi takes on the role of King Farouk, and Abdul Aziz Makyoun plays a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader.
Egypt's recent Shura council elections, in which the Brotherhood failed to secure a single seat and accused the authorities of widespread fraud may indicate that the group is on a collision course with a government that seems determined to sideline it.
Al-Gamaa will air on the cusp of Parliamentary elections planned for November, in which the group's ability to take part in Egypt's political future is sure to be tested.
With so much at stake, the series is sure to be a hit when it begins airing this Ramadan.
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