Washington D.C. (07/08/2004) - On July 7, 2004, Coptic youth gathered to protest a newly released Egyptian film for its scornful and insulting depiction of Coptic faith and culture. The film, ‘I Love the Cinema,” portrays the trials of a modern Coptic family. However, the depiction is one of an angry extremist father, an adulterous wife, and a sacrilegious son. Other Copts in the movie include an unmarried couple whose illicit sexual relationship takes place inside a church. The film proceeds to ridicule church traditions, ceremonial rites, and doctrines.
The film is unique, as Copts are not usually depicted in such major roles in the Egyptian media. I Love the Cinema is, in fact, the only movie produced in the last several years about Copts, and its content degrades Coptic clergymen and depicts Christian women as prostitutes and men as close-minded religious fanatics. In light of the film’s uniquely Coptic nature, the defamatory slurs targeted at the Church and the overtly negative insinuations regarding Christian family relations have enraged the Coptic community. In response, a large number of young Copts assembled at St. Mark’s Cathedral in El Abaseeya, Egypt chanting slogans and distributing flyers targeted at the removal of the film. As the youth chanted, “Copts for peace, not surrender,” “Copts remain silent, but we don’t forget!” and “By the spirit, by the blood, we will rescue the Cross!”
While the furor of the demonstration increased, clergy within the church attempted to quiet the crowd. However, the young Copts would not be abated; moreover, several members of the clergy had accompanied the youth in support of their rally. Out of fear that the demonstration would spill into the streets of Cairo, security forces were called to surround the church. As the young Copts attempted to take the demonstration outside the church, clergy pleaded with them to remain inside, reminding them of prior protests in which Copts had been severely injured by police officials.
Similar fury had been exhibited two years ago, when scandalous pictures of a former Coptic monk engaged in sexual relations with a woman were published in the Egyptian newspaper, El Naba. The unusual publication of such explicit photos, alongside various slurs against Coptic faith and culture, infuriated the Coptic community. Thousands of Copts rose in protest against the defamation of their faith and community, but several were injured in clashes with police.
This unique depiction of a Coptic Egyptian family on Egypt’s broad screen and its destructive and atypical portrayal of the Coptic community only serves to fuel the growing culture of intolerance within the country. “The Egyptian government continues to play with fire by permitting this blatant attack on Christianity,” states Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association. “While the government entrusts El-Azhar with the approval and censorship of all materials believed to be offensive to Islam, the objections of the Coptic church went unheeded and the movie was released,” he continues. In light of the courageous stance taken by the Coptic youth, Mr. Meunier goes on to state, “We are extremely proud of our Coptic youth who now understand that they must take actions to gain their lost rights and we fully support them in their peaceful protests against the endless onslaught of their rights and freedoms.”