Did he or didn’t he? On Monday the Arab news website Albawaba reported that the “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia” actor Omar Sharif had converted to a kabbalistic sect of Judaism. Today a contradictory news report has emerged with Omar Sharif’s spokeswoman flatly denying that he has switched religions.
“I have been hearing these rumors for a while and I have no idea what their source is, but they are not true and he is not thinking of converting at all,” Inas Bakr told the Al-Arabiya news channel.
Originally born Michel Shalhoub to a Roman-Catholic family of Lebanese/Syrian descent in Egypt, Sharif converted to Islam before marrying his first wife, Egyptian actress Faten Hamama. Equally proud of his nationality, the eighty-year-old legend has also vowed from ever abandoning his Egyptian citizenship.
“He has always sworn never to think of changing those two,” Bakr said.
While the actor himself may not be a member of the tribe, several of his descendents indeed are. Back in May, Sharif’s grandson Omar Sharif Jr. wrote an op-ed in The Advocate revealing his fear over returning to Egypt after revealing himself to be Jewish through his maternal roots.
Sharif’s previous Jewish ties include a relationship with Barbara Streisand, whom he met while he played Jewish gangster Nick Arnstein in 1968’s Fanny Brice biopic “Funny Girl,” as well as its 1975 sequel. He also performed in several film adaptations of Old Testament works, including two films in 2006 – “The Ten Commandments” and “One Night With The King”.
Additionally, Sharif played the title role of a Muslim shopkeeper who developed a relationship with a Jewish teenage boy in France, in 2003’s “Monsieur Ibrahim.”