Arab censors giving 'Passion' wide latitude
Gibson film packs Mideast movie houses (SFGate)
Charles Levinson, Chronicle Foreign Service
Arab governments across the Middle East are bending or breaking their own censorship rules for "The Passion of the Christ,'' the Mel Gibson film that sparked fears of anti-Semitism when it was released in the West.
In Egypt, where the film opened to large crowds Wednesday, "it's getting a very special treatment," said Mustafa Darwish, a film critic and former president of the Egypt Censorship Authority.
So far, the film has been released uncensored in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
However, Darwish and other observers say allegations raised by U.S. Jewish groups may have actually encouraged the film's welcome in the Arab world.
"They (the censorship authorities) think the film is anti-Semitic. That's why they are giving it such privilege," Darwish said.
"I encouraged the movie because it withholds from Jews their claims that they are innocent of the Christ's blood," said Mohiy el-Din Abdel Aleem, a professor of media and journalism at Al Azhar University, when asked why Al Azhar had not objected to the movie.
Moviegoers in Cairo left the film with widely differing views.
"This shows what happened, and how the Jews trapped Jesus and let the Romans crucify him. This is the truth," said Maher Nissim, a financial manager who viewed it on opening night at the Ramses Hilton theater.
Salwa el-Badrawi, a stooped elderly woman in an Islamic headscarf who attended a pre-release screening, said she hoped the movie would bring religions closer together rather than drive a wedge between them.
"It shows that there is tolerance and tenderness in all religions," she said. "The movie shows Jews who sympathized with the Christ, while we Muslims also had a Christian person who helped the prophet Mohammed," referring to Waraqah, his wife's Christian cousin, who helped Mohammed interpret his revelations.
I hope there are a lot more people like Salwa el-Badrawi
Mark Goodacre and Rebecca Lesses have also noted the article.