Egypt: Ramadan Television and the Muslim Brotherhood

The Jordanian actor Eyad Nassar playing Hassan El Banna's role in El Gamaa

Eyad Nassar playing Hassan El Banna's role in El Gamaa. Image taken from Lokmet Eish blog

If we are to list the main characteristics of the Holy Month of Ramadan in Egypt and in the Arab World, they are – other than fasting and praying – oriental desserts, soap operas and TV series. And this year the Egyptian TV decided to produce a series about the opposition party Al Ikwan Al Muslemeen (The Muslim Brotherhood), who are also referred to by the Egyptian regime as El Gamaa El Mahzoura or the Illegal Group. The TV series, which is called El Gamaa, tries to shed light on the history of group and it's founder Hassan El Banna; however it was criticised by many bloggers that it reflects nothing but the regime's point of view.

Tarek Shalaby compared the series to Nazi propaganda:

@tarekshalaby: I can't say it enough, #Gama3a is equivilant to Nazi Germany propaganda. It's even more effective. Bullsh*t.

Hussein Ossman criticized El Gamaa here, claiming its writer is biased to the regime and to the the state security intelligence's point of view:

أى عمل إعلامى أو فنى يتعرض أو يسرد أحداثا تاريخية، لابد أن يلتزم الحياد والموضوعية، وذلك من أجل إظهار الحقائق دون الركون لتحقيق هدف شخصى أو حزبى، وذلك من باب الأمانة وتأدية الرسالة التى تعد من أهم خصوصيات الأعمال الإعلامية والفنية.
وعلى خلاف ذلك خرج علينا الكاتب وحيد حامد بمسلسل “الجماعة” الذى جافى الحقائق وكذب الواقع وخرج عن إطار الأمانة المهنية، فمنذ اللحظات الأولى من مشاهدتك للمسلسل تجد نفسك أمام عمل يؤكد لك أن الإخوان جماعة متطرفة تدعو للعنف والانقلاب على المؤسسية للدولة، وقد امتلأ المسلسل بالمشاهد التى قلبت الحقائق والتناول المغرض، فقد تبنى الكاتب تصورات رجال أمن الدولة القابعين فى لاظوغلى، ونقل عنهم نقلا أمينا، بل وجدناه فى مشاهد احتكاك الطلاب بالأمن كان أمنيا أكثر من وزارة الداخلية.
All historical dramas are supposed to be unbiased and to say the truth without being biased to the point of view of a certain person or party. And this is an essential and integral part in delivering the ethical values of art and media.
While on the contrary, Waheed Hamed – the writer of El Gamaa – created a series full of lies and fabrications, which is against all the ethics and values of media. Since the first moment, and the series kept on stressing that Al-Ikhwan are a radical group that call for revolution and violence against the state. And many of the scenes of El Gamaa turned the facts upside down, and the writer was totally biased to the point of view of the state security officers in Lazoghly (where the Egyptian State Security Investigative Bureau is located). And in the scenes showing the tension between the students and the security forces, he was even more biased to the Security Forces than the Ministry of Interior itself.

Raafatology also criticized the writer of El Gamaa and described him as a police-writer:

بعد أن وضحت النيّه والغرض من مسلسل الجماعه للكاتب البوليسى وحيد حامد، وبعد أن أجمع الجمع على أن هذا المسلسل ما هو إلا إنتاج حكومى تفصيل لتجميل وتلميع صورة جهاز أمن الدوله
The reason behind producing El Gamaa which is written by the police-writer Waheed Hamed is clear now. And everyone agrees that this series is just a product of the regime that is tailored to beautify and polish the image of the state security service.

Other bloggers, who also found it biased, believed that the series – unintentionally – did Al-Ikwan a big favour.

Maggie Osama and Nawara Negm, for example, said that the Jordanian actor playing Hassan El Banna's role is handsome enough to let people like El Banna and his group instead of hating them.

@maggieosama: آياد نصار دا مُز مُز يعني
@maggieosama: Eyad Nassar is really hot.

And Nawara wrote in her blog how the ones responsible for the casting of this series have shot themselves in the foot:

حد يجيب اياد نصار يعمل دور حسن البنا في مسلسل بيهاجم الاخوان؟ ده مين الاخواني اللي عمل الكاستينج ده؟ اهو كلللللللللللل البنات دلوقت وقعوا في غرام حسن البنا ومن بكرة الصمح الساعة حداشر صباحا الخامسة عصرا حينضموا للاخوان
Are they insane to let Eyad Nassar play Hassan El Banna's role in a series attacking Al-Ikhwan? Is the one responsible for the casting a member of Al-Ikhwan himself? Now all the girls will fall in love with Hassan El Banna, and tomorrow morning all of them will go to join Al-Ikhwan.

And another user on Twitter posted a link showing how the series raised people's interest in learning more about Al-Ikhwan's founder as the increase of searches on Google show:

شوف قد إيه مسلسل الجماعة نفع الإخوان #gama3a
@justicentric: See how much the series has dome Al-Ikwan a favour #gama3a
This graph shows the increase of number of searches for Al-Ikhwan founder Hassan El-Banna

This graph shows the increase of number of searches for Al-Ikhwan founder Hassan El-Banna

Ibrahim Mohamed, on the other hand, liked the series, and wrote in his blog “Hanany” how he found the script and information offered satisfying:

رغم اني مش من هواة التليفزيون في رمضان، لكنه شدني اوي
اول مرة احس ان اللي عاملين المسلسل واخدين موقف حيادي شوية
ولاني قريت كتير جدا في تاريخ الاخوان خاصة شخصية الامام حسن البنا ونشأته وحياته وتاريخ تأسيس الجماعه شايف انهم لغاية دلوقتي ماشين كويس
رغم انهم بيحطوا احيانا السم في العسل
Although I'm not a TV fan in Ramadan, but the series has attracted me. For the first time I feel that the ones behind it are not biased to anyone. And also because I read a lot about the history of Al-Ikhwan and specially about that of Hassan El Banna, his childhood, life, and the founding of the group. I see that they are so far doing fine, and telling the truth, although sometimes there are hidden lies within this truth.

The series is also attracting attention outside Egypt. Lebanese Naeema tweeted:

@Naeema: Officially addicted to Musalsal El Gama3a … the amount of info im reading based on the background of events is huge.

And finally, Abdel Monem Mahmoud wrote in his blog (Ana Ikhwan), about the other series that Ikwan were going to produce themselves, but about a year and a half has already gone and it hasn't seen light yet:

مرت سنة ونصف وأخرج الكاتب وحيد حامد مسلسله الكوميدي عن الجماعة ولم نري من الإخوان أنفسهم إلا الثرثرة فهل بعد كل هذا تقوم فعليا بأنتاج عمل فني يوضح صورتها للمجتمع
A year and a half has passed and Waheed Hamed came out with his comic series “El Gamaa”, and so far we have seen nothing from Al-Ikhwan but chit chats. Aren't they going to produce their series after all this to show their real image to society.


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