CAIRO: Egyptian artists have condemned a decision by Cairo University to ban the screening of an Oscar-winning Iranian film under pressure from Islamist students who said it propagates Shia ideas.
The Front for Creativity, a coalition calling for freedom of expression in the arts, said the decision to ban “A Separation” was a “catastrophe that showed “the extent of extremism reached by some students in our universities.”
The Islamist students who demanded the ban “must remember that their voice (was brought about by) a revolution that calls for freedom, so it is shameful that they suppress this freedom,” the artists said in a statement.
Islamists, long banned or oppressed under president Hosni Mubarak, have become more vocal and assertive since the uprising that toppled the veteran strongman last year, raising some fears among secularists and Christians.
They clinched almost three-quarters of the seats in recent parliamentary elections, and Islamist students have been more openly active on campus.
At Cairo University, the Islamist students who adhere to the Sunni sect pressured authorities into banning the film, saying it propagated Shia thought.
The artists have called for a meeting with the dean of the university as well as with the students to discuss the matter, the group’s spokesman, producer Mohamed Al-Adl, told AFP.
Directed by Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation” sets out a deep social expose of today’s Iran in a simple story starting with a divorce, exploring the themes of love, lies and honor.
Last month, Egyptian censors blocked the screening of a “taboo” film, “Cairo Exit”, about a love story between a Christian woman and a Muslim man, a move slammed by filmmakers and critics.
Under Egyptian law, films must obtain a written permit from censorship authorities in order to be screened. Anyone violating the procedure could be sentenced to jail.
Earlier in February, Islamist students at Cairo’s Ain Shams University halted the filming of an Egyptian television series protesting against the “indecent” clothing of the actresses.
This came shortly after the Arab world’s most famous actor, Adel Imam, received a three-month jail sentence for “defaming Islam” in several roles on stage and screen.