• EGYPT \ Nov 24, 2004
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    Film Ridicules Christian Doctrine
Film Ridicules Christian Doctrine In the movie, set in the 1960s, 7-year-old Naeem's fascination with the silver screen is discouraged by his conservative Christian father, who uses religion to back his argument against his son's dream of making movies. Naeem's mother, once an art-lover, decides to support her son.

In an interview this week, director Osama Fawzy blamed clergymen for the religious tension surrounding the film.

"I imagined that the issue was creating sensitivities because (Christians) are not used to seeing themselves on the screen. For the past hundred years, they were portrayed as side characters," he said. "But the issue is getting bigger and is turning into incitement against the movie: the lawsuits, calls for boycotts."

The movie has made $372,000 in theaters, a moderate amount by comparison to star-studded commercial movies.

Still, more than 100 Copts demonstrated in Cairo's main cathedral on Wednesday, demanding that the movie be removed from theaters and the film crew tried for "contempt of religion."

Christians represent 10 percent of Egypt's 70 million people.

Morkos Aziz, one of 11 priests who filed a lawsuit against the film, said the church should be consulted on religious topics. A Coptic lawyer is also pursuing legal action against the film, asking for its immediate removal from theaters.

"We are not against freedom, but it should not be against the doctrine. This movie mocks the Christian doctrine," Aziz said, pointing to Naeem's questioning of the doctrine of salvation.

Scenes of a woman beating the local priest on the head with her slipper and of a couple kissing in the church portray Christians as "morally corrupt," he said, and will make Muslims avoid them.

The movie is rated "adults only" and was reviewed by a group of Christian critics to clear its content. A few scenes were cut and a religious curse was muted in the final version.

Aziz accused Fawzy -- a Christian who converted to Islam when he married a Muslim woman -- of turning against his religion.

The screenwriter and producer are Christians. The film is a semi-autobiographical tale by writer Hany Fawzy.

Osama Fawzy, who received praise from film critics and is hailed as a trendsetter in industry circles, said the allegations stir up religious strife by making an issue of his religion and by criticizing the film for mixing the Christian denominations. The mother and father in the film are of different sects.

Fawzy accused the clergymen of wanting to copy al-Azhar, Islam's highest Sunni religious institution, which has been granted legal authority to ban books deemed offensive to Islam.

In 2000, bloody clashes erupted between protesting al-Azhar students and police against a book deemed blasphemous, and the book was later banned.