The grandson of veteran Egyptian actor Omar Sharif has come out publicly as a gay, half-Jewish man citing fears for his country’s political future after the Arab Spring.
In a piece for the Advocate entitled We’re Not in Cairo Anymore, Omar Sharif Jr. says he wrote the article “in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself.
“My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being. But I can’t.”
Having left Egypt in January 2011 before the revolution, Sharif writes in the April issue of the Advocate with concern for the political direction the country is taking after visiting his home country.
He says: “The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt — a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square — has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths.”
Voicing fears the Arab Spring in Egypt may be moving the country backwards rather than forwards, he writes: “I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.”
Sharif continues: “While to many in Europe and North America mine might seem like trivial admissions, I am afraid this is not so in Egypt. I anticipate that I will be chastised, scorned, and most certainly threatened. From the vaunted class of Egyptian actor and personality, I might just become an Egyptian public enemy.”
He adds that he “barely recognises” the Egypt he has returned to from America, one which has moved from a “pluralistic” society with “a multitude of beliefs and backgrounds” to a “monolithic entity”.
Challenging the political powers to speak out in favour of equal rights for Egyptians regardless of gender or sexual orientation, he adds: “I want to know that we are not sliding downward on a slippery slope from secular(ish) society toward Islamic fundamentalist state [...] After all of this, if we pursue a national agenda that does not respect basic human rights, we are no better than the architects of tyranny, contempt, and oppression toppled throughout the Arab Spring.”