The government, installed after the military deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July, says the Egyptian-made movie, “Halawet Rooh,” Arabic for “Sweetness of Spirit,” must be re-evaluated by the country’s censors. Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced the decision late yesterday on the cabinet’s Facebook page.
“Pulling the movie is a clear indication that all the government’s talk about the respect of a civil state, as opposed to Mursi’s religious state, is actually nonsense,” Emad Mubarak, head of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, said in a phone interview today. “Under Mursi there was a crackdown on freedom in the name of religion, now it’s the protection of so-called state values.”
Secularists accused Mursi of seeking to advance an Islamist agenda, which frowns on public displays of sexuality. Critics of the current government, which has carried out a deadly crackdown on Mursi’s supporters since he was toppled, accuse it of quashing dissent.
The movie, released earlier this month, tells the story of a young single mother who lives in a slum and works in a club to provide for her son, according to the website Elcinema.com. Critics of its content have accused it of being sexually provocative, with state-run Al-Akhbar newspaper saying in an April 13 review that it aims to “sexually arouse the audience.”
The movie pulled in almost 1 million Egyptian pounds ($143,000) in its first week, or 52 percent more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier, according to the website. Its trailer, featuring Wehbe, a singer-turned-actress who’s become a sexual icon in the Arab world, drew more than 3 million views on YouTube.
The movie’s producer, Mohamed El-Sobky, said in a phone interview last night with private satellite station ElMehwar that he wasn’t notified of the decision. The Egyptian Creativity Front, a coalition of people in the arts, de journalists, denounced the move as an “assault on the freedoms of thought, expression and art.”
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