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Egypt: Obssessed with Celebrities’ Religion

Nour is a Lebanese actress who has been starring in Egyptian films for the last 10 years. She is always considered as one of the prettiest actresses of her age. Lately, Egyptian newspaper “El Youm El Sabee” (The Seventh Day) reported [Ar] that Nour gave birth to a baby boy and called him “Leonardo”. The child's name helped reveal the religion of the actress, which shocked some of those who left comments on the article there.

An anonymous reader left the following comment under the screen name “Masdoom” (Shocked):

هى مسيحة!
Is she Christian!?

Another reader replied to Masdoom:

شكلها مسيحيه بس انا مش عارف اتمنى انها تاسلم يوما ما
She seems to be Christian, I am not really sure. I hope she converts to Islam someday.

And a third reader called “Asmaa” said:

انا كنت بحبها لكن بعد ما عرفت انها مسيحية كرهتها
I used to like her, but after I knew she's Christian I hated her.

Readers left more than 100 comments on the article. Some where just shocked, and some others like the following reader tried to urge people to be more reasonable:

وفيها ايه لما تبقى مسيحيه وفيها ايه لما اتفرج على ممثل مسيحى ده سيدنا محمد عليه الصلاة والسلام تزوج من مسيحيه واوصى بهم خيرا
What's the problem with her being Christian, or watching a Christian actor/actress!? Even Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) was married to a Christian woman and ordered us to be good to Christians.

Traveller Within wrote the following tweet mocking people's reaction after knowing Nour's religion:

@TravellerW: الناس المتضايقة ان نور مسيحية كان عندهم أمل يروحوا يتجوزوها مثلا و دلوقتي الموضوع فركش بسبب الدين؟ :)
@TravellerW: Why are people sad that she is Christian. Were they planning to marry her, and now they can't because of her religion? :)

In fact, it seems that even Nour herself – whose real name is “Marianne Phillip Abi Habib” – was aware of this, and either she or her producers decided to give her a new screen name that doesn't reveal her religion.

It's not only Nour, but another Egyptian Actress – Basma – was subject to rumours a while ago that her grandparents are Jews. People then had mixed feelings towards such news.

In his blog “The Egyptian Silent Majority” blogger Ahmed Samir wrote about an incident that happened to him some time ago and made him realize how much people are obsessed with knowing other people's religion.

He wrote:

سألتني زوجتي فجأة:
“هو المذيع………..مسلم و لا مسيحي”؟؟
(المذيع المقصود مذيع اذاعي بصوت مميز يقدم احد البرامج العاطفية على محطة من محطات ال FM)
جاويتها….(لا طبعااا…مسلم…..مســــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــلم طبعا…..دايما بيستشهد بالدين في برنامجه….لا و كمااااااااان ايه..دة دايما يهنىء المسيحيين بأعيادهم بقوله “اخواننا المسيحيين”)
لا…مسيحي ازاي…..؟؟ لا ممكن ابدااا
عموما نتأكد من الإنترنت….حتما و لابد عنده معلومة في هذا الشأن
و لســـــــــة بكتب إسم الرجل على جوجل لأفاجأ ان (جوجل) بيكمل لي السؤال
“……………مسلم أو مسيحي؟”
لأكتشف ان السؤال دة لا يشغلها هي وحدها انما شغل ناس كتيـــــــــــــر قبلها على الإنترنت!!!
My wife asked me out of the blue whether that radio host is Muslim or Christian.
(I am referring here to that presenter with a distinctive voice who presents a relationship advice show on one of the FM radio stations)
I answered her: No of course, he is a Muslim. He's Muslim for sure. He usually refers to Islamic values and laws on his show, and when he refers to Christians he calls them “Our Christian brothers/sisters”. He can't be a Christian, surely not. Anyway, let's see if the internet can confirm this information.
I went to write the guy's name in Google to find out that Google automatically completed my questions, and added “is he a Muslim or Christian?”
I realized then that it's not only my wife, but many others have gone to find an answer for the same question online before us.

He then continued:

لقد اكتشفت اننا شعب مهوووس بالديانات….بتفرق معاه قوي الشخص دة مسلم و لا مسيحي…..؟

علامات استفهام رهيبة و مثلها من علامات التعجب عن المغزى من هذه الأسئلة…و هل تنال ديانة المشهور من شعبيته و شهرته؟؟؟
و ما سبب هذه الطائفية الرهيبة التي تحملها هذه النوعية من الأسئلة..؟؟؟
و هل وصلت مجتمعاتنا الى درجة رهيبة من التطرف لدرجة ان تحكم على الشخص من خلال ديانته…لا من خلال اخلاقه او أعماله؟؟
و إذا كانت كل هذه الأسئلة تتم بدافع (الفضول) و ليس ال(التطرف) فهل وصل (الفضول) الى هذه الدرجـــــــة؟!!

فلقد ضبطت نفسي (متلبسا) بتهمة (التفاهة) و (السطحية) و الأمر اني قد اكتشفت اني لست بمفردي على هذه الشاكلة بل ان أمري يهون بجانب الكثيرين قبلي قد قرروا ان يفتشوا في ضمائر الناس و دياناتهم و ان يبنوا قناعاتهم و مدى حبهم لهذا النجم او ذاك بديانته و يقرروا مدى تعلقهم به و حبهم له بذهابه للجامع أم للكنيسة؟؟!!
I realized that we are obsessed with religion, and it really matters to us whether a certain person is Muslim or Christian.

Many questions and exclamation marks are wandering in my mind now. Does a person's religion effect his fame and popularity? What is the reason behind this sectarianism that carried us to ask such questions?
Has our society reached such a point of extreme sectarianism that we judge people by their religions instead of their morals and deeds? And if such questions are due to curiosity and not sectarianism, why are we that curious to know?

I caught myself charged with shallowness and silliness, but it's not only me, or else it would have been easier, many others before me decided to search into people's beliefs and base their love and hatred towards celebrities based on their religions, and decide to love or hate them based on whether they go to a mosque or a church on the weekend.

Charafantah wrote a list of more than 15 questions [ar] each one should ask himself in order to know whether he is racist or not. And one of those questions was whether your opinion in someone changes after you know his/her religion.

انطباعك عن حد بيتغير لما تعرف دينه؟
Does your opinion in people change after you know their religion?

Finally, just as Ahmed Samir said in his post, it's not always racism or sectarianism, but sometimes it's just curiosity that makes us eager to know other people's religions, yet why are we that curious to know? Why do we even care to know? Will such information make any difference to us?

11 comments

  • Tarek you cant imagine the comments I get working as field outreach for the UNAIDS targeting sexually active people especially gays in Egypt.
    Even gays tend to have sex with men within their own religion, which I find awkward considering the fact that being gay is NOT hereditary. It is not something you get from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or any other family member.

  • Lamya M.

    Not at all, I have christian friends as well as musliums. But I’m just curious to know so as not to make a sudden comment that might not be acceptable from their point of view so in short to take care and respect their believes and thoughts as I like them to respect mine as muslium. In short for mutual care.

  • Thanks. Fine story. Makes one realize that people aren’t all that different. Sadly religion is (still) a filter on likes and dislikes.

  • moulana saleem ebrahim

    Assalaamu alaikum , My brothers and sisters in Islaam , why do we bother with these so-called celebrites , who act out superficial lives and roles . Dont we all enough drama in our lives ? Is there any actor/actress in Hollywood or elsewhere that has better qualities, features and personality than the the Holy Prophet Muhammad [SAW] and are better than the the ummahaatul mo mineen . Why do we waste our time with all this acting when Holy Prophet is no actor but is reality . salaam wa Ramadaan mubarak

  • Egyptians are indeed obsessed with religion. They did not use to be like this but now they are. I traveled a lot in Muslim countries and never felt unwelcome as a christian as much as in Egypt. I guess Egyptians are nice people but the present mood on religions reflect the policy of the state…

  • Tan Ickx

    Why is it that all of you are making a big fuss about what she does? Why can’t you people of the world just accept it? Whether she’s Christian or not, black or white, as long as she’s a human being–she should be accepted as a whole.

    If only, you among the 5% of the people in the world work for peace, there will be peace and unity.

    Why don’t we just stop acting like children and think of things that would stop the fighting / violence? Create a better place for the future of our children and that they could get along without discrimination (race, gender and religion).

  • Jennifer Mc Cleary

    This makes me very sad. As a child I was taught to accept and respect every individual regardless of their sex, religion, class, race, or creed. It’s unfortuneate that most of the world wasn’t given this same lesson but instead insist on playing out centuries old battles of hatred and misunderstaning (and I’m speaking of all nations here, not any specific one). When are we going to put our fore father’s squabbles aside and start acting like a civilized race of HUMAN BEINGS? As it stands, we’ve yet to grow up.

    • Tan Ickx

      I agree with you 100%. This is also my wish for the whole world. They should set-aside these petty squabbles and focus on better things like developing Peace, unity, camaraderie and world developments!

  • Finding out if someone is Muslim or Christian will definitely NOT change my perception of the person!

    Tarek…if u think this kind of negative attitude is found only in Egypt..u’ll be surprised how much it’s find in Lebanon. It’s found everywhere, really.

    And seriously? I can’t believe one of the comments that said “after I knew she’s Christian I hated her”. How ignorant and fucking stupid.

  • يا جماعة بنسأل مسلم و لا مسيحى عادى يعنى مجردسؤال مثل باقى الاسئلة(فضول يعنى)شكرا

  • who ever said ” after i knew she’s christian i hated her” i hate u more ok now i like her becuase she is christian ok and if u really respect ur religon and believe in god and ur religon has teached u how to love one another u would not say this but ur heart is full of hate to other religon of course life will get worse if there is people like u in it

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