An Egyptian box office hit that highlights the religious establishment’s cozy relations with the state has provoked a backlash from Sunni Muslim clerics, with some calling for the film to be banned.
Adapted from a novel by prominent journalist Ibrahim Eissa, “Mawlana” (“The Preacher”) tells the story of a popular television preacher who struggles to reconcile his religious principles with demands and pressures from politicians and security agencies as well as ordinary human temptations.
Through the protagonist, a cleric from Al-Azhar, Cairo’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, the film lays bare the complex and troubling interplay between the state, religious establishment, mass media and Islamist extremism in Egypt.
The issue couldn’t be more timely.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief, overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013 and is still battling radical Islamists. The day after the film’s premiere, a suicide bomber killed 28 people in an attack claimed by Islamic State on Cairo’s main Coptic Christian cathedral.