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Posted On: 21 March 2010 02:55 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:10 pm

Sharif, the ‘pride of Arabia’

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Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, who starred in many Hollywood films, yesterday claimed he was the luckiest man in the world because he was able to become an international actor and achieve “the best positive publicity for Islam.” The actor, who is in Doha for the first screening of his 2003 film Mr Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran today as part of the “Doha, Capital of Arab Culture 2010”, will also participate in a seminar after the screening. In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times, Sharif spoke about his film career since 1967, when he acted in Lawrence of Arabia. This performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture, a Most Promising Newcomer award and worldwide fame as the world’s leading Arab actor. Sharif also played the title role in the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago by David Lean. His decision to star in William Wyler’s Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand reportedly angered Egypt’s government due to Streisand’s support for the state of Israel. However, Sharif slashed Arab critics saying “I have never participated in a movie that would upset Muslims, a lot of things have been said.” He stressed that he was the only Arab actor who has done so much for Muslims, in the international movie arena. “I’m the only Arab who has run for the Oscar, and won three Golden Globe Awards and the Golden Line Award of Venice, French and German Oscars,” he stated, adding “all my films were a propaganda for Islam, I am the biggest campaigner for Islam and there is no one, not even presidents of countries who have done better than myself for Islam.” To a question about his reported Jewish origins, Sharif stressed he never said he was Jewish. “Everyone knows I was born a Catholic Christian and I converted to Islam when I married my ex-wife, Egyptian actress Faten Hamama,” he said. Sharif further maintained he was Egyptian, whereas misconceptions suggested that he was of Lebanese origin. “I starred with renowned Egyptian actor Adel Imam in Hassan and Morkos, which was a comedy about a relationship between a Muslim and a Kopti (Egyptian Christian), as there were many conflicts taking place between the two religions in Egypt”. He added: “We tried to send a message but eventually a movie is just watched for entertainment and cinema is never successful in this regard, but I always like my work to carry significant messages, even if they reached one person only”. Sharif pointed out that he had made four Arab films since 1982. “There aren’t good directors and scripts in the Arab world,” adding “I have asked Khamisi, an Egyptian writer to write a script for me.” The actor said he had spent his life in hotels worldwide to work and support his family. Addressing a press conference organised by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, cultural expert Dr Marzook Basher Binmarzook said that the Supreme Committee of the Celebration of “Doha, Capital of Arab Culture 2010”, was honoured to host the international star in Qatar. “Omar Sharif is the Arab world’s pride. He reached the international arena but remained a genuine Arab,” he stated. Dr Binmarzook pointed out that Qatar was seeking to establish the foundation for a film industry, through Qatar Foundation and the Ministry of Culture. “Next month, the first Qatari feature film will be screened, which will be considered as the first step towards the achievement of our plan,” he added. Speaking to reporters, Sharif said that pure luck enabled him to star in Hollywood films. The actor said that he hated to watch movies. “I have never seen a movie in the last 20 years,” he said adding that he liked to watch sports and earn money to buy more horses.