On Thursday, President Mohamed Morsy met with a group of writers, filmmakers, actors and artists at the presidential palace in Heliopolis. The turnout among the invitees was moderate, as some of the country’s intelligentsia refuse to “deal in any way with an Islamist state.” From those who showed up, many hailed the president’s statements, reassuring them that freedom of opinion is guaranteed, and the country’s creative and cultural richness is as relevant as its material developments according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency.
Still, skepticism looms with the events that followed the meeting, from the police raid on book vendors on Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria on Friday to the repeated controversial statements by some Salafi sheikhs describing artists as “prostitutes” and condemning cultural icons like Om Kalthoum and Abdel Halim Hafez for their romantic lyrics. Over the past few months, Egypt’s top comedian Adel Imam, along with a number of established filmmakers and screenwriters, has also been charged with committing blasphemy against Islam for films they took part in over a decade ago, and Imam was sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of LE1,000. (The Haram Misdemeanor Appeals Court acquitted Imam of those charges Wednesday). (Ola El-Saket/Egypt independent)