DETROIT NEWS – CAIRO – In Cairo’s entertainment world these days, it’s hard to escape a wave of anti-Americanism. Often, a sure way to fill a theater is to lambaste U.S. foreign policy, cultural habits or military activity. One comedy lampooning the United States featured an exploding Statue of Liberty outside the lobby. Another production had a randy caricature of an American general and played to packed houses for four months. The sentiment driving such works is widespread across the Arab world, a recent poll showed. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed in Jordan in March had a somewhat or very unfavorable view of the United States, the study by the Pew Research Center showed. In Morocco, it was 68 percent.
The invasion of Iraq and U.S. support for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians are the prime causes of this trend, most political analysts say. A majority of the Arabs in the Pew poll said the United States attacked Iraq for oil, to protect Israel or to weaken the Muslim world generally.
In Egypt, the sentiments color popular music as well as film. Shaaban Abdel Rehim, one of the country’s most popular purveyors of shaabi, a kind of Egyptian funk, is turning out hit after hit critical of President Bush, his policies in Iraq, his allies in the Arab world and Israel.
Some of the recent popular offerings are the work of groups long opposed to the decades-old alliance between the Egyptian government and the United States. Others are from newcomers to this point of view.
In Egyptian film director Youssef Chahine’s case, disillusionment represents a painful personal journey. “I studied in the United States,” he said. “Sixty years ago, I fell in love with the United States. But things have changed – America has changed.”
Abdel Rehim describes a similar falling-out: “You know, I was like other Egyptians. I liked America when I thought it was working for peace.”
The anti-American trend has often been a boon at the box office. “We had our first hit in 15 years thanks to Bush,” said left-wing activist Khaled Sawi, leader of the Haraka Theater group, which staged “Messing With the Mind,” a strident satire of U.S. power and influence in the Middle East. The show opens with people portraying armed Marines entering the theater and shouting at the crowd: “You have the right to remain seated and to die.”
The program ends when the main character, a Gen. Tom Fox (named after Fox News), yells, “I hate Arabs,” and gets a pistol shot to the head.