Talk Like an Egyptian

Is Arab popular culture uniformly anti-American?

| December 2, 2004

In their haste to alert the American public of the rising tide of anti-American sentiment in the Arab media and in the Arab world at large, American journalists may have gone too far. According to Charles Paul Freund, a senior editor of Reason magazine, a Washington Post article (August 2004) made widely inaccurate and even inflammatory claims regarding the popularity and general public reception of some anti-American Arab pop stars. Additionally, the article, and the American media in general, have ignored the bold attempts of some very popular Arab stars to denounce and criticize anti-Americanism.

The near-foolishly gregarious Shaaban Abdel Rehim of Egypt is best known for his hit tune, 'I Hate Israel,' which was followed by a song called 'I Will Quit Smoking!' Freund contends that while this former wedding singer may have some followers, he is known mostly for stunts and antics. Recently, a long list of Egyptian actresses publicly refused to work with him.

Meanwhile, the Post found Alexandria . . .New York, the most recent feature by Youssef Chahine, Egypt's most famous filmmaker, to be a 'virtual cinematic divorce [between the two nations],' and portrayed the filmmaker as lamenting his newfound alienation from the United States. Freund points out that Chahine's hate is hardly 'newfound' or 'on the rise.' The filmmaker made his career on a 1978 film called Alexandria . . .Why? in which the Statue of Liberty figured prominently, as a harlot welcoming a group of European Hasidic Jews to America's shores.

Meanwhile, the Post did not interview actress Nabila Obeid, of the popular and United States-positive serial drama, Aunt Noor. Nor did Syrian actor and writer Yasser Al-Azmeh, who has written a popular satire that criticizes anti-American posturing among Arabs, warrant a call.
-- Elizabeth Dwoskin

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