The grandson of legendary actor Omar Sharif—best remembered by gay audiences as Barbra’s squeeze in Funny Girl—has come out in the Advocate both as gay and half-Jewish, neither of which will make him very popular in his native Egypt.
I write this article in fear. “Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself” Omar Sharif Jr. writes. “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.”
Born in Canada, Sharif Jr., 28, grew up shuttling between Montreal, Paris and Cairo. Though he graduated from the London School of Economics, he’s now pursuing a career in acting. (At the 2011 Academy Awards, he was the guy who humorously sparred with presenter Kirk Douglas.)
Sharif, Jr., who fled Egypt last January amid increased violence and instability, says he’s despondent over the situation in his homeland:
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…
That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?
Is Sharif’s plight more tragic than that of a gay Egyptian without a famous name or the financial means to flee to the U.S.? He would be the first to say no. But he’s aware of the spotlight even a modicum of fame can provide and has decided to do something useful with it.
The Hollywood celebutantes who drunkenly stumble across the pages of Us Weekly could learn a lesson.
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