Lesson 3: Relationships between Religious Groups in the Arab World

Lesson Information

About this Lesson:

In the Arab world, monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) are given a special status and practitioners of these religions are called ‘People of the Book.’ These three religions spring from a common tradition and have shared elements within their history, theology, scripture, and rituals. Despite the commonalities among the three religions, tension exists between religious communities in the Arab world.

In this lesson, students watch Hassan wa Marqos (Egypt, 2008), directed by Rami Imam, a satirical film that looks at religious extremism and sectarian violence in Egypt and highlights the possibility of friendship between Coptic Christians and Sunni Muslims. Through this film and accompanying activity, students explore the cultural similarities in the religions and the reasons for tensions


150 minutes 3 class periods

In this lesson, students will:

  • compare the three major monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
  • watch the Egyptian film, Hassan wa Marqos (Hassan and Marqos, 2008), directed by Rami Imam.

Enduring Understandings

  • It is widely recognized throughout the Arab World that the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, share common values and traditions as well as many religious stories and figures.

Curriculum Framing Questions

  • What characterizes the relationship between different religious groups in the Arab world?
  • What can we learn about religion in the Arab world from its presence in literature and film?

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • compare and contrast the monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism)

Assessment & Evaluation of Student Learning:

  • Complete chart comparing the three monotheistic religions.
  • Participation in class discussion.
  • Chart comparing characters from the film, Hassan wa Marqos, demonstrates understanding of the film and analysis of the characters

Curriculum Standards Information

Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

History/Social Studies

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

History/Social Studies

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Materials Needed in Class:

Comparing Religions Handout

Comparing Religions Handout Answer Sheet

Hassan wa Marqos Comparison Chart

Hassan wa Marqos

Alternate link for Hassan wa Marqos here.

Hassan wa Marqos viewing guide for teachers

Implementation Overview:

Click here to download PDF version

Day One:


Remind students that in yesterday’s lesson, they looked at the ways in which various religions are expressed in the region. Today, they will explore the relationship between the major monotheistic religions in the region (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) and the individuals who practice those religions in the Arab world.


Distribute the Comparing Religions Handout and ask students to read the statements on the handout and select whether the author of the statement is a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. Students may select more than one religion. Have students work independently or in small groups.


Come together as a class and review answers and discuss. (See correct answers and discussion points on Comparing Religions Handout Sheet). As the class goes through the chart, it should become clear that the three religions share many beliefs and practices.


Explain to students that despite the similarities among the religions, many tensions exist between them. Ask why that might be and how these tensions might manifest themselves. Introduce the film, Hassan wa Marqos (Egypt, 2008), directed by Rami Imam.

Hassan wa Marqos (link 1)

Hassan wa Marqos (link 2)

Teachers are encouraged to review the Hassan wa Marqos Guide for Teachers prior to screening the film.


Distribute the Hassan wa Marqos Comparison Chart, similar to the chart they used at the beginning of the lesson. This chart will compare the religious and cultural practices of Hassan and Marcus and their families. As students watch the film, they should write 10-15 statements about religion and religious practice and indicate who could have said the statement.


Show Hassan wa Marqos (Egypt, 2008). Instruct students to pay attention to the portrayal of Islam and Christianity and their relationships as depicted in the film.

This film is meant to be shown in its entirety and it is not recommended to show select clips. You may want to highlight the scenes indicated in the Hassan wa Marqos Guide for Teachers and use the discussion questions provided as a guide for the students.

Day Two:


After viewing the film, ask students to share their thoughts on the film.

  • What did you like and dislike in the film?
  • What surprised you about the film?
  • What was the message of the film?
  • How were Islam and Christianity portrayed in the film?
  • How were relationships among Muslims and among Christians, and between Muslims and Christians portrayed in the film?


Give students time to complete their statements in the Hassan wa Marqos comparison chart. In small groups, ask students to compare the statements they wrote down in their charts. Ask students to determine whether the statements of their peers applied to Hassan, Marqos, or both.


Upon completion of the assignment, ask students to share the statements they wrote and discuss the process of writing these statements:

  • Did most statements apply to only one family or to both?
  • Was it easy or hard to find statements that applied to only one family?
  • What can you learn about the similarities and differences of religion and religious practice from this exercise?

Supplementary Materials:

Articles about Hassan and Marcos:

Other films about religious relations in the Arab world:

Summer in La Goullete (Tunisia, 1996), directed by Ferid Boughedir. Set in 1967, A Summer in La Goulette examines a time when Muslims, Jews and Catholics lived together in harmony as neighbors. Youssef (a Muslim), Jojo (a Jew) and Giuseppe (a Catholic) are best of friends until each of their daughters swears to lose their virginity by a certain date. To make matters worse, each daughter sets her sights on a boy of a different religion, thus challenging an inviolable taboo and causing a rift between their fathers. As the families resolve their differences, the Six Day War breaks out in the Middle East, which will divide Jews and Arabs the world over. One Hand: The Movie (US 2012), directed by Johnny and Rebecca Weixler One Hand is a documentary film project seeking to tell the inspiring stories of the Egyptian Muslims and Christians who stand together during the Egyptian Revolution, struggling to ensure a future founded on unity and equality.