Oscar-nominated actor Omar Sharif, star of the film “Dr. Zhivago,” is blasting President Bush’s Middle Eastern policies and the American “ignorance” that spawned them.

Americans “don’t understand what is going on in the rest of the world,” Sharif said. “They are ignorant.”

Appearing on the Al-Hayat television network, Sharif claimed to have spoken with President Bush even before the Iraqi invasion, warning America’s commander in chief that American forces “would drown there” and that in Arab nations, “we don’t have a democracy, and we never will.”

Sharif’s venom wasn’t reserved only for the president, however, as he also criticized Americans’ lack of geographical knowledge.

“Only 10 percent of all Americans have a passport,” he said. “In other words, 90 percent never left America. … You show them an unmarked map of Europe and ask them where France is, and they don’t know. Ask them where Italy is … . OK, Italy they know because it looks like a shoe. They don’t know anything.”

Sharif, 76, was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egpyt, and raised a Roman Catholic. He converted to Islam and changed his name when he married Egyptian actress Faten Hamama in 1955.

Sharif rose to international fame in 1962 when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in the film “Lawrence of Arabia.” He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor three years later for starring in the title role of “Dr. Zhivago,” in which his 8-year-old son, his only child with Hamama, played the boy Zhivago.

Originally of Lebanese and Syrian descent, Sharif has called Egypt home since birth, though he admits he lived in America for a long time.

“We, the Arabs… We are not like [regular countries],” he said, explaining why he warned Bush against encouraging democracy in Iraq. “We are sects. This is how we have always been.”

“People like me prefer to go to the neighborhood sheik. I like going to him, and he resolves all the problems. If someone stole from you, you take him to the neighborhood sheik, and you say, ‘This man stole from me.’ The sheik says to him, ‘Return the money, or never come back to the neighborhood.'”

Sharif’s diatribe began with a declaration that summarized his comments: “The American policy is completely wrong.”


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