For the great and enlightening Egyptian actor Adel Imam to be tried for insulting Islam, and sentenced to three months imprisonment, means only one thing, namely that Egypt has taken the decision to put itself on trial! Targeting Adel Imam, in this retaliatory manner, means that the time has come for us to express our pessimism regarding the future of Egypt, politically, economically, artistically and culturally.
Over the past months, I have sidestepped talking about the situation in Egypt, whether about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF], the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, or other political powers. This was not out of indifference to Egypt or its importance in the Arab world, or even out of a sense of compassion towards the situation unfolding in the country, but rather because Egypt is living day by day, not based upon any long-term plans or views, whether from those who have long been part of the decision-making process or the revolutionaries. Egypt is not following any long-term vision, but rather is living based upon instinct and a desire for revenge against everything. We now see all of Egypt today, with its long history, retaliating against a great artist who in his famous “Al-Zaeem” [The Leader] play, dared to say what the Muslim Brotherhood themselves would not against Mubarak whilst he was still in power!
Whoever places Adel Imam on trial today on charges of insulting Islam deserve to be put on trial themselves for disparaging Egypt, its culture and diversity, and supporting the terrorists that Adel Imam himself waged war on in his films. Indeed the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists failed to say anything against these same terrorists who stuck Egypt during the 1990s, or who attempted to harm Egyptian unity by targeting the country’s Coptic community. At the same time, Adel Imam was more courageous than anyone else, as he challenged and waged war on terrorism, whilst portraying Egypt in a golden light, not just in front of the region or the world, but in the eyes of the Egyptian people themselves! Adel Imam was more daring than the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, not to mention those who consider themselves to be symbols of the Egyptian revolution today, whether we are talking about politicians, religious figures, economic figures or even intellectuals; this is because the great Egyptian actor Adel Imam dared to criticize the government, corruption, election fraud, and many other issues whilst Mubarak was still in power, not merely after the Egyptians had taken to the streets against him! Adel Imam was in Tahrir Square long before the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and Egyptian intellectuals.
Therefore it would represent a huge scandal for Adel Imam to be imprisoned today, for this would mean that Egypt had chosen to put itself on trial in front of the eyes of the Arabs and the world. This would be, without a doubt, the worse trial, and would mean that all hope in Egypt’s cultural and artistic future is lost, not to mention the country’s political future. Imprisoning Adel Imam is not like excluding a political force, rather this is an attempt to exclude a cultural or artistic vision! The Muslim Brotherhood in particular – or let us say all opponents of Mubarak – complained of the [political] exclusion that they suffered during the Mubarak era, in which case targeting Adel Imam in this manner means that they are no different, or indeed worse than, Hosni Mubarak himself, for the imprisonment of this great actor would be no different than the imprisonment of Ayman Nour or Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, during the Mubarak era.
In conclusion, with the latest news, perhaps the time has come to say that Egypt’s future does not bode well, and that a revolution that pursues artists like Adel Imam is not so much a revolution, but rather an example of Egypt putting itself on trial.
* This column will be on hiatus for the next two weeks.