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Egypt president's meeting with artists comes in for praise, criticism

While artists and writers express appreciation for meeting with Egypt's President Morsi, others – from both left and right – voice opposition to event

Ahram Online, Tuesday 11 Sep 2012
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Mohamed Morsi in Artists Meeting
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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's meeting with writers and artists last week sparked debate, with some voicing support for the initiative and others criticising it.

Egypt's Collective of Artistic Unions issued a statement on Monday thanking the president for the invitation he extended last week to prominent Egyptian artists, writers and thinkers. The invitation came amid mounting fears regarding the future of artistic and creative freedom in Egypt.  

The meeting, the statement asserted, confirmed the state's support for the role of art and artists in the country's development. The collective stressed its appreciation for the president's stated "awareness and understanding" and called for his promises to be implemented by all state bodies and institutions.

Not everyone was as supportive of the meeting. Film director Amr Abdeen, for his part, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website that the way the artists had been invited to the meeting had reflected the "old way of thinking."

Sheikh Wagdi Ghoneim, who recently denounced Egyptian artists in two religious tapes entitled "Is This Art?", posted a video on his YouTube channel voicing his opposition to the meeting.

Ghoneim expressed his dismay, saying he had supported Morsi in Egypt's recent presidential elections because he believed the latter would implement Islamic Law. He called on Morsi to retract certain statements that he made at the meeting in which the president said Egypt was a "democratic country" that "supports freedom of speech."

"Democracy is a sin," Ghoneim asserted.

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