Adel Imam (b. 1940) & Omar Sharif (b. 1932)

Legendary Egyptian actors star in a film about relationships across religious divisions

Omar Sharif and Adel Imam

Omar Sharif (left) and Adel Imam (right)
Omar Sharif: nicolas genin/CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikimedia Commons
Adel Imam: daly3d abd/CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons

A dramatic comedy film that was produced in Egypt in 2008 provides a humorous vision for religious harmony amid a context of religious strife and violence. With all that has happened with the Arab Spring and what has followed, this film provides a different look at the possibilities of relationships and respect across lines of religious difference.

Set among the tensions between the Muslim majority and Christian minority in Egypt, the film Hassan and Morcus depicts two leaders, a Coptic priest and a Muslim sheikh. They are both moderates who are forced to go into hiding by extremists from their own religious communities. They are put into a government protection program disguised as religious leaders of the other’s faith. They end up as neighbors in the same building, become friends and form a business together. Eventually their children fall in love.

With two legendary Egyptian actors playing the lead roles, Adel Imam and Omar Sharif, the film has gained high visibility and stirred controversy for honestly exposing some of the religious tensions in Egypt. When the film was released it created such intense controversy that Imam had to move from his Cairo home because of threats by extremists. Some critics accused him of apostasy for playing a Christian priest.

However, in the face of the controversy Adel Imam said:

I have made a work of art. That is what I can do. I have declared war, using art against the extremists—against those who foment differences between us. I hope Christians and Muslims will leave the cinema and embrace and kiss one another.

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