Monday, March 16, 2009

Christian Community Raises Hackles Over Egyptian Film

Coptic community raises hackles over Egyptian film
03/16/2009 07:23 PM
By Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent

Cairo--Ten Egyptian Christian lawyers are pushing for the banning of a local film, saying it harms Christianity.

The lawyers have filed a complaint to Prime Minister Ahmad Nadeef and Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni demanding them to ban Wahed Sifr (One-Zero), which is playing in local cinemas.

"Any film tackling an issue related to Christians should be first presented to the Church in order to ensure it does not promote misconceptions about Christianity," said Bishop Morqos, the media spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church.

While admitting he has not seen the film, the Christian cleric told Gulf News that since the film deals with marriage and divorce in Christianity, "it should have been reviewed by the Church".

For Orthodox Coptic Christians, marriage is one of seven canonical sacraments, which also include baptism, confirmation, Eucharist (the Lord's supper), confession, orders and unction of the sick.

Based on a story by Christian script writer Mariam Naom, Wahed Sifr deals with the story of a divorced Coptic woman, played by celebrated actress Elham Shahin, who is denied permission from the Church to remarry. Her dilemma deepens after she becomes pregnant out of wedlock.

In Coptic Christianity divorce is not allowed except in the case of adultery or other extreme circumstances, which must be reviewed by a special council set up by the Church.

Makers of the film deny that the work hurts the image of Christianity.

"The film provides a panoramic view of the status of Egyptian women Muslims and Christians alike. As far as the Coptic character is concerned, the film just presents the problem of remarrying in Christianity without suggesting solutions," said actress Shahin, a Muslim.

"Many Christian women are suffering from this problem. In my view, this film and other works that present Coptic characters have one thing in common: Christians and Muslims in Egypt are one entity and live in one society without discrimination," added Shahin in a recent TV interview. She accused the lawyers, seeking a ban on the film, of fishing for fame.

"This film is realistic as it tackles a problem facing many [Christian] women in Egypt," Rauf Tawfik, a Coptic writer, told Gulf News. "The Church has the right to demand seeing the film and makes its remarks. But it has no right to seek banning it."

The title of the film, the events of which occur in just 24 hours, is inspired by Egypt's win of the 2008 African Cup of Nations, the continent's most prestigious soccer tournament, after beating Cameroon 1-0 in the final.

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