Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to make a movie
Wednesday, July 5,2006 00:00
By Joseph Mayton, Middle East Times

The Muslim Brotherhood is pressing on with arguably its most ambitious endeavor to date. A movie. The theme is the life of the outlawed group’s founder, social and political reformer Hassan Al Banna. A life and times of the embattled leader, as the cliché goes.

In much the same way that Banna’s own life and death was controversial, the prospect of a film has triggered no small amount of conflict between his family and the Brotherhood, Islamists and secularists.

Ahmed Seif Hassan Banna Al Islam, son of the assassinated founder, has admitted that production has begun on the movie, but remains cryptic as to the identities of the potential actors and where it will be filmed.

He said that until the film location is decided, he will not reveal other aspects of it. However, Islam hinted at the possibility of filming in both Egypt and Syria, the countries most oppressive against the group.

"We are ready to begin filming," said Islam, adding, "a committee is discussing the film and holding regular meetings. It will portray [Banna’s] life accurately."

Islam said that the film would show Banna’s early days, growing up in a village in the Delta region of Egypt, moving on to his founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 with six compatriots from the Suez Canal Company, and to their confrontations with the government and his assassination by government agents in 1949.

The story would include how Banna became involved in a Sufi order at age 12, becoming a fully initiated member in 1922. Also, the script will describe his participation in demonstrations during the 1919 Revolution against British rule.

Banna’s youth was marked with confusion as his religious fervor began to take hold, Islam said the movie would show. But, that today’s tolerant Muslim Brotherhood reflects his tolerance for others, he added.

"He debated with Christians, Jews, and even agnostics and it is our desire to show this to everyone," Islam said.

The Brotherhood hopes that the film will be shown across the globe and that the West will better understand the Islamic group.

"We want the US and Europe to see the film so they can know the truth about Hassan Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood," Islam said.

Several scripts for the movie had been shown to the Brotherhood. However, Islam, as the family representative with the final word on the movie, said that the script would show Banna’s life in a "proper light."

"We received numerous scripts and some I was not shown," Islam said, adding," My father is a historical figure and it isn’t right for anyone to produce a movie that fabricates the events surrounding his life."

Journalist Mohammed Al Baz wrote a script, but had refused to allow either the Brotherhood or Banna’s family to review it unless he had first sold it to a production company as is.

"If Banna’s family wants to look at the script and express their opinion while giving me the right to accept or not, then I would have no problem to show my script," he said, "but I know that they want to interfere in the details ... they want the story to express their views, not mine."

The dispute between other scriptwriters and Banna’s family has highlighted the controversies around the movie.

The banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition bloc in the country but the Egyptian government is keen to stop the organization progressing any further. Security police constantly harass members making sweeping arrests and sometimes jailing scores of members at a time.

A film would add injury to insult, not to mention a probable government backlash.

It is unsure whether a film would be given permission to be distributed locally. Islam, however, said that he was not disturbed by the possibility that the film would be banned in Egypt. He said that the Brotherhood was determined to produce it no matter what the government might say.

The government has not uttered a word about the movie, which has made Egyptians, especially activists, suspicious of it and its purpose. Some pro-reform secular activists from the Kifaya (Enough) movement have said that the movie idea was an attempt by the Brotherhood to usurp their own leadership in the drive to politically modify the country.

"I simply don’t trust their actions and a movie only continues to make me feel that they are doing something behind our backs," Bassem Khalifa, a democracy activist, said.

The Brotherhood is upbeat about a film’s prospects.

"It will be made, I am certain of that," said Mohammed Habib, deputy of the Brotherhood. "We will continue to show people our true selves so that they may see us for who we are and choose for themselves the best route for Egypt and the Muslim nation."

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