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Egypt’s Censorship Head Resigns in Film Spat

The head of Egypt’s censorship board has resigned after the country’s prime minister overruled his decision to allow a film starring a sultry Lebanese singer to be shown.

The film, titled “Roh’s Sweetness,” had already been in theaters for over a week. It tells the story of a married woman whose husband is abroad and lives with a relative in a poor neighborhood where she becomes an object of desire and sexual obsession for men.

Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe arrives for the screening of the film “Ocean’s Thirteen,” in 2007, at the 60th International film festival in Cannes, southern France. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Ahmed Awad, undersecretary to the culture minister and head of the censorship authority, told The Associated Press on Saturday that he had submitted his resignation Thursday morning in response to Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab’s decision to stop the film from being shown. The censorship board is meant to be an independent body that gives the final say on whether a movie can be seen by Egyptian audiences.

“Of course I’m not happy with what happened,” Awad said. “I did this out of respect for myself.”

Awad said he had yet to receive a response to his resignation from the government.

Mahlab said he stopped the film from being shown in response to calls from the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood and “to preserve the morals of our children.” Lebanese sex symbol Haifa Wehbe plays the lead character in the film and has a young boy infatuated with her. Also in the film, her character is raped.

Mahlab convened a meeting of prominent and artists Saturday, but did not change his position on the film.

In a statement, Mahlab said the government continues to value the fine arts and creativity in all its forms, “but there is a difference between art and the infringement upon values.”

In a column in Saturday’s edition of the independent newspaper Al-Shorouq, film critic Kamal Ramzy wrote that the prime minister’s concern is misplaced given the many economic and social issues Egypt is currently facing.

Ramzy wrote that Egypt’s leaders have not yet learned from their history with censorship, where political figures have in the past focused on film censorship while ignoring problems of corruption and governance.

It’s a useless argument in “Roh’s Sweetness,” Ramzy writes.

“The scenes would only affect a sick person in this way,” he wrote.

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