Omar Sharif Jr: Gay and Half-Jewish 'Confession'

Omar Sharif JrOmar Sharif Jr., grandson of the Doctor Zhivago star, is currently in the news because he has come out as a gay man who happens to be half-Jewish (on his mother's side) in an essay found in The Advocate – one accompanied by a photograph showing a hairy, buffed-up, bare-chested man (Sharif Jr.?) holding the Egyptian flag.

In the essay, the 29-year-old Montreal-born actor explains he wrote the piece out of “fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself.” As per Sharif Jr., the problem is that in Egypt “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.”

Further down in his piece, he adds:

And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.

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?

Though Sharif Jr's “confession” posits some undeniable truths, some of the comments – from Egyptians – found in the article are just as interesting.

A couple of commenters questioned the decision of a struggling actor now living in Los Angeles to come out of the closet in such a “dramatic” manner, as one put it. They also affirm Sharif Jr. has no real ties to Egypt, having lived most of his life elsewhere – Montreal, London, Paris. And one offered to introduce Sharif to the “real LGBT community in Egypt that actually have it hard and can teach him a thing or two about wanting the best for Egypt.”

According to the IMDb, Omar Sharif Jr has appeared in only two movies, Rami Imam's Hassan & Mark (2008), in which he plays his grandfather Omar Sharif's character as a young man, and Ahmed Maher's The Traveller, which also features the veteran Sharif. On television, he had the recurring role of Oliver Briscbois in the Canadian series Virginie (2006). Apparently, there were also several appearances in an Egyptian TV series in 2007, in addition to Calvin Klein and Coca-Cola ads, stand-up comedy performances, and a brief appearance opposite Kirk Douglas at the 2011 Academy Awards ceremony.

Sharif Jr.'s grandfather is best known for his 1960s epics: Omar Sharif was a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominee for David Lean's multiple Oscar-winner Lawrence of Arabia (1962); starred in Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965), opposite Julie Christie; and was one of the many stars featured in Anthony Mann's The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), with Sophia Loren and Stephen Boyd. Sharif was also Barbra Streisand's romantic interest in William Wyler's musical Funny Girl (1968).

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  1. Mario DG says:

    I'm a Gay Arab-American man living in the USA. I have visited Egypt numerous times, and always enjoyed the "tolerance" Egyptians are known for. There is a huge gay/lesbian community in Egypt, and occasionally courageously try to come out, but the law enforcement agencies bash them back in the closet, similar to the Stonewall era in the US. While his 'coming-out' timing, I think is a publicity stunt to get attention. And he got it. Egyptians had no human-rights altogether, gay or straight during the late regime of Mubarak, some fear a back-wards move in those issues with the government change, I think Egyptians eventually will get their freedom, including gay/lesbian rights. As far as Jews, there are still many Jews and half-Jews in the movie/entertainment industry in Egypt, and are well tolerated and actually liked. Egyptians do not tolerate Israelis or Zionists (because of the Israeli occupation of Palestine)