Egyptians hail Oscar-winning ‘Pharaoh’ Rami Malek

Rami Malek, winner of Best Actor for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards press room at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP

CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) — Egyptians on Monday hailed Rami Malek as a new “Pharaoh” after he won the best actor Oscar for his performance as rock singer Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Malek, an American of Egyptian origin, received the award on Sunday for his portrayal of the gay icon and lead singer of iconic British band “Queen”.

On social media, Egyptians highlighted a quote from his Oscar acceptance speech: “I am the son of immigrants from Egypt.”

Malek’s family are Coptic Christians from the Upper Egypt province of Minya.

Their “entire village was up until 5 o’clock in the morning” to watch the Oscars ceremony, said 24-year old Fady Essam, Malek’s cousin.

“We called his mother to congratulate her and urged her to bring him to Egypt to hold a huge celebration for him.”

Egypt’s Immigration Minister Nabila Makram also congratulated Malek for his Oscar win.

Social media was filled with praise on trending hashtags carrying Malek’s name in Arabic and English, while many hailed Egypt’s new “Pharaoh”.

“Its really a beautiful thing that an Egyptian and Arab is the Oscar’s best actor,” one said in a tweet.

Others, however, were not so impressed.

“It’s not like (Malek) did anything useful for the country,” said Hossam Ahmed, a 35-year old mobile shop owner.

Egypt was hit by political upheaval following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, ushering in an era of instability.

Grappling with a tattered economy and a crackdown on dissent, Egyptians often taken comfort from compatriots who make it on the international stage.

One example is Liverpool star striker Mohamed Salah who was born and raised in a Nile Delta village and is adored by millions at home.

Despite the acclaim, scenes dealing with Mercury’s sexuality in “Bohemian Rhapsody” were removed from the version of the film in Egypt.

“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself,” Malek said in his speech.

In conservative Egypt where homosexuals face persecution, little attention was paid to Malek’s portrayal of a gay icon.

While Homosexuality is not explicitly banned, Egyptian authorities have cracked down on suspected homosexuals, drawing condemnation from right groups.

In 2017, Egypt’s top media body issued a decision “banning the appearance of homosexuals or promotion of their slogans.”

© Agence France-Presse