Actor Adel Imam attends the Awards Show and Closing Night Red Carpet and Screening of 'The First Grader' during the 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Doha October 30, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)

Prominent Egyptian Actor Convicted of Contempt for Religion

Author: assafir

The final judgment of three months imprisonment and a fine of 100 Egyptian pounds for the great actor Adel Imam did not stir up much reaction, even for the cultural and artistic elite. However, it has become a trial about the former era and an artist who belonged to it by virtue of his work. His artistic movement reached its apex when it provoked a conflict with the Islamists.

Imam was convicted of numerous counts of contempt for religion for his recent artistic work. This conviction has not triggered the expected fury from the media or the streets. The same goes for Egypt’s political scene, which is facing one of its most important challenges: rebuilding the state and formulating its political, economic, social and cultural discourse.

The trial and verdict came at a critical moment, and was reminiscent of the politically motivated trials that targeted artists and intellectuals during former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Persecuted intellectuals in the past have included great figures like the late writer Naguib Mahfouz and the late thinker Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid. But Imam’s case was not seen by the public as a probe for the progress brought about by the Egyptian revolution, nor for the behavior of the Islamists. Instead it was but a reminder of the old regime.

SummaryPrint The trial of actor Adel Imam is reminiscent of the artistic and intellectual persecution characteristic of the Mubarak regime. But the final judgement, writes Sateh Noureddine, has not caused the expected public or media outcry.
TranslatorRani Geha

Adel Imam, the great artist whose plays and movies sometimes criticized the Mubarak regime, was not enthusiastic about the revolution. He had uttered statements offensive to the revolution and to the protesters, which he later denied. Nevertheless, in doing so, he tarnished his reputation. People quickly forgot that he objected to Mubarak’s attempts to name his son Gamal successor to the presidency, even before the revolution. Imam contributed to his own classification as part of the former regime's “remnants,” a group including actors and actresses who can never work in the artistic or public domains again.

The lawsuit against Imam can only be understood within this context. It was also part of the Islamist takeover of the revolution, which sounded alarm bells for the artistic community. In the past few weeks, political, military and judicial forces opposed to the Islamist takeover have been able to stop, or at least hinder, their advance before they were able to grab the presidency, gain a monopoly on writing the new constitution and re-establish the caliphate.

For Imam to serve his prison sentence would be an important development in Egypt’s ongoing conflict between Islamists and civil society, as this great artist is a phenomenon of political artistic historical importance. It is important given the emergence of promising stars similar to Imam, and it highlights the Islamist movement's return to judicial authority. This great artist may still be cleared after his lawyers file an appeal, on the basis that the charges are false, which would avoid bringing the issue to the streets.

In essence, this whole ordeal has been more a tribunal about the past than an indication of the future.

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