A car advertisement starring Egyptian megastar Amr Diab has been accused of normalising sexual harassment.
The ad, which was quickly removed by French car manufacturer Citroen after its release, features Diab driving its new C4 model when he almost hits a woman crossing the road in front of him.
While she is crossing, Diab uses the car’s new camera feature to snap a photo of her, which then instantly appears on his phone. As part of the narrative, the photo is taken without the woman’s consent.
The French manufacturer on Wednesday issued an apology for offending viewers.
“Citroen cares for all communities in the countries we operate and we do not tolerate any forms of harassment,” it said. “We deeply regret and understand the negative interpretations of this part of the film. We take the decision to withdraw this version of the commercial from all Citroen channels and we present our sincere apologies to all offended communities by this film.”
Although Citroen has pulled the ad from all its platforms, a longer version of it remains on Diab’s Twitter page. In this version, which was posted on December 3, the actor is seen taking the girl out for a ride in his car.
Despite the apology, many on social media were vehement about how inappropriate they thought the ad was, with some of them raising questions about sexual consent in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Many said the ad was particularly tone deaf, given the levels of sexual harassment in Egypt.
Others were baffled by the fact that at no point between brainstorming for the ad to when it was broadcast did anyone involved in its creation feel that it was inappropriate.
“A man taking a woman’s photo without her consent. A whole team thought this was a good idea. Then referred it up and they thought it was a good idea. Then @amrdiab, the biggest star in the Mideast and his team also thought it was a good idea. Did @Citroen explain?” wrote Egyptian-British BBC journalist Shaimaa Khalil on Twitter.
Critics also noted that the advertisement, which promotes taking non-consensual photos of passers-by, is punishable by law in Egypt.
Despite the criticism, some of the pop star’s fans were quick to defend him.
One Twitter user wrote: “I feel that this is being blown out of proportion a little bit. I mean, since when do people get their lessons in life from advertisements?”
Diab has thus far not addressed the criticism and the ad is still on his Twitter page at the time of writing this article.
Sexual misconduct has taken centre stage in Egypt over the past two years, with dozens of women coming forward to report misconduct committed against them. This has sparked what has since been called Egypt’s #MeToo movement.