Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Culture of Politics: a Roadmap to Unesco!

Is Faruk Hosny’s name famous? At least, the recordman minister of Culture of the Arab Republic of Egypt (21 years in office!) has got a rather good fame locally as somebody who played a leading role in putting his country back to the limelight on the arab cultural stage.

His next challenge is to run for the coming election at the head of the Unesco, and to become the first Arab in charge of this international institution.

Head of the Egyptian cultural policy for such a long time, Faruk Hosny does not have only friends in his country! Indeed, the “minister of crises” as he is often called in the Arab press has survived many problems, thanks to his ability to get rid of some of his best friends at hard times, and to the backing of some powerful people like Mrs Mubarak.

Regarding the freedom of expression, M. Hosny’s file is so-so: yes, he acted rather strongly against hard-line Muslim during May 2000 crisis about the publication in Egypt of a novel by Syrian writer Haydar Haydar (حيدر حيدر), no, he did not show the same strength during other attacks, one year later for instance when works by the famous Iraki poet of the 8th century Abu Nuwas were burnt for “immorality”!

Faruk Hosny’s main trick has been to “bribe” a helpless intellectual class who “stayed in the sheep-fold”, to put it in the Egyptian minister's words.

It is not an easy job to be elected at the head of the Unesco, especially if you are an Arab may be… Thus, Faruk Hosny needs some extra backing.

This could explain why he announced, in November 2007, that he was working on the project of a museum dedicated to the history of Jews in Egypt.

Certainly a “positive gesture” but not a definitive one as the key issue is probably the “normalisation” of the cultural relations with Israel, something the Egyptian intellectuals and artists strongly resist since Camp David agreements.

Nonetheless, a step toward “the good direction” was recently done when the cultural attaché at the Israeli embassy in Cairo was invited to atend a performance at the National Theater.

Halas! Sometime ago, the Simon Wiesenthal Center gave some publicity to a declaration given by the Egyptian cultural minister saying to some local politician that there was no Israeli books in his the national libraries and that “he would burn Israeli books himself if found in Egyptian libraries”. Of course, the Israeli authorities officially protested to such a declaration.

Apparently, Faruk Hosny knows what he has to do if he wants to succeed in his project and he has recently tried to correct his image saying that (cultural) normalisation with Israel was “a dream”.

All the more, such a dream should not be broken by foolish decisions. Thus, complete normalisation would be the result of a peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Knowing the difficulties of the famous “roadmap” for peace between the two nations, the road to the Unesco offices in Paris could also be a long one!

Here to read the original and more detailed post in French.

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