Scholars decry lesbian scene in Egyptian movie

Want director and actresses prosecuted


Religious scholars in Egypt are outraged by a lesbian scene in a new movie, telling audiences to stay away from the sinful flick and calling for the director and actresses to be prosecuted.

Preacher and Islamic Studies professor at Cairo University, Dr. Abdel-Sabour Shahin accused the new movie, Heena Maysara (Until Further Notice), of spreading homosexuality and promoting debauchery.

He called on authorities to prosecute the director of the movie and the two actresses, Ghada Abdel-Razeq and Sumaya Al-Khashab, who enacted the lesbian encounter on the big screen.

The film Heena Maysara – which also translates as "Till things get better" in Egyptian slang – is set in a Cairo shanty town and tackles the issues of poverty, crime and physical and sexual abuse, among others.

In the controversial scene, Abdel-Razeq, who plays a lesbian, tries to seduce Khashab. The scene shows Abdel-Razeq hitting on Khashab – who plays a prostitute called Nahed -- and kissing her.

Shahin claimed the movie is part of "a Zionist and American conspiracy" which uses this sort of movie to destroy the moral fabric of society.

Islamic scholars at Al-Azhar University also expressed their indignation at the movie and supported Shahin's call for a clampdown.

Preacher Youssef Al-Badri told the Kuwaiti paper Al-Ray that the lesbian scene is proof of the moral disintegration of Egyptian cinema. He appealed to Al-Azhar to toughen censorship on art and media outlets, saying "This is its role, and it gave it up."

Professor of Islamic Law at Al-Azhar Elwi Amin said watching sex scenes -- whether gay or heterosexual -- in movies is considered a sin. Amin claimed there is no lesbianism in Egypt and said there would never be.

"Many people in Egypt do not even know what the word 'lesbianism' means. This is the influence of immoral Western culture which controls the media."

But the movie's female star, Sumaya Al-Khashab, said she saw nothing wrong with the scene, calling it realistic and necessary.

"Whoever watches the movie will realize that this scene was important to the storyline and is not included just to be sensational," Khashab said.

The actress also noted that this was not the first time a homosexual scene was presented in an Egyptian movie, citing Emaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building): "The only difference is that was between two men."

Director Khaled Youssef said he was offended by criticism leveled at the movie and asked people to watch it before they passed judgment.

"I will not respond to those who criticize without even watching the movie. Lots of people accuse me of apostasy and immorality based on seeing the film poster."

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).