Egyptian movie star Adel Imam fearful over country’s future
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Well-known Egyptian movie star, Adel Imam, last week attended a special tribute held in Erbil to celebrate his expansive career. The popular Egyptian movie and stage actor remains one of the biggest and most beloved stars in the Arab world. Imam starred in a number of well-known plays and movies, including Madrassat al-Mushaghabeen [The School of Troublemakers], Salam Ya Sahby [Goodbye, My Friend] and The Yacoubian Building. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat upon his return to Cairo, the Egyptian movie star revealed that he is overwhelmed by the political crisis that is engulfing Egypt.
Recalling his welcome in Erbil, Imam revealed that “the celebrations began with a traditional dance with a walking stick, and at this moment I thought of everything that was happening in Egypt and felt my eyes well up with tears because the people of Egypt are in no mood to dance now due to what the country is experiencing. I cannot bear what is happening to my beloved country, and I did not stop for a moment from following up on events during my time in Kurdistan.”
He added “when they presented me with the award I asked all those present to pray for Egypt, and they said in one voice: God preserve Egypt!”
The Egyptian movie star announced his complete rejection of President Mursi’s constitutional declaration, saying that it is unacceptable for any president to possess complete power in this manner.
As for the likelihood of him taking to the streets to join one of the demonstrations protesting against this issue, Imam told Asharq Al-Awsat “if I felt compelled to do so, I will take to the streets without hesitation!” He added “somebody sitting at home does not mean that they accept what is happening, for there are many ways to oppose, and my works and views are proof of this, not to mention talking to ordinary people and the elite, including politicians, writers and intellectuals.”
Adel Imam has always had something of a cult status within Egypt for his willingness to stand up to the status quo, albeit indirectly. One of his most famous plays, “Al-Zaeem” [The Leader] tells the story of a corrupt president who is secretly replaced by his doppelganger, an ordinary man. The play sends up the relationship between the ruler and the people, and was viewed by many as an implicit criticism of then president Mubarak.
As for the forthcoming constitutional referendum that is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Imam told Asharq Al-Awsat “we have become a country of referendums, not [academic] certificates.” Demonstrating his trademark wit, he mocked the manner in which this constitution was drafted saying “we don’t even know how to draft a constitution! However this is not a shame for the people, the shame is on the so-called elite, drawing up a document that the politicians can accept, but that the people cannot.”
He stressed that the Egyptian people possess a “popular tradition and culture within every single person” adding “based on this, they therefore cannot accept being ruled by a single faction; they will not submit to this whatever happens and they will continue to refuse regardless of the circumstances.”
Imam also condemned the Islamists’ attack on Egypt’s media, describing this as an “ignorant political attack.” He stressed the importance of the role played by Egypt’s media, particularly under the present circumstances.
He said “the media has progressed in an unprecedented manner, and those involved in this have made huge gains…for now the news reaches the viewers as it happens, and there is analysis from every viewpoint regarding everything that is happening, so the viewer can choose what he wants to hear and see. Nobody can deceive the Egyptian viewers, for in the past Egyptian state television was the sole source of news, but now there are many channels and this is something that promotes freedom of choice.”
As for reports that he may leave Egypt, particularly following the legal troubles he found himself in last year with regards to accusations of blasphemy – charges he was eventually completely cleared of – Imam told Asharq Al-Awsat “I will never leave my country under any circumstances regardless of what happens, and I will continue to defend Egypt with all of my power. The Egyptian people gave me all of my fame…and they are the best of all people.”
He stressed that “I am sad about what is happening in my country, and I am not alone in this, for my wife is suffering from chronic depression due to the extent of her sorrow regarding what is happening in the Egyptian street, particularly as she strongly supported the revolution.”
As for his view of the protests that have broken out recently, Adel Imam said “I pray to God Almighty that we do not see any more bloodshed” adding that he has had difficulty sleeping following the recent events, particularly the clashes that occurred outside the presidential palace. He said “I say to the martyrs…your reward is with God Almighty and your blood will not be in vain.”
Adel Imam called on the Egyptian people to return to work “so that the country does not experience destruction in all economic, social and cultural fields” adding “every second that passes has a cost in terms of destruction and devastation.”
He also addressed a message to the Muslim Brotherhood, saying “you must sit and negotiate and come to an understanding with the opposing political forces so that we can reach a solution that satisfies all parties.” He called on the Brotherhood to benefit from the experience of the “liberal” forces, saying “we are in a dark tunnel, but I still see a glimmer of light.”
In spite of this “glimmer of light”, Adel Imam expressed his fear of Egypt entering a state of civil war, saying “we have begun to see attacks on everything in the country on a daily basis; attacks on women, attacks on cars, as well as other clear attacks being carried out by some parties. Therefore I call for everybody to follow the example of the spirit of the 25 January Revolution youth who dazzled the world with excellent and noble protests.”
As for his acquittal on charges of defaming religion, Imam told Asharq Al-Awsat “these accusations were painful for everybody in my family” adding that accusations of apostasy are saddening to anybody.
He also revealed that his next work will be a series entitled “The Soothsayer”, asserting that “this will be a comedy so that I can amuse the Egyptian people who have forgotten how to laugh in light of current events.”
He added that this series will address the events of the 25 January Revolution from afar without going into specific details. As for his intention to work on a film or television series dealing with the 25 January Revolution directly, Imam said “I hope to do this, but the time is not right, for the revolution until now has not been completed; but it will be completed in the forthcoming period.