• Arts
  • September 28, 2009
  • 6 minutes read

Farouk Hosni and the conspiracy theory

Farouk Hosni and the conspiracy theory

Following Farouk Hosni’s losing bid to UNESCO, official sources in Egypt said, “The European-American alliance and the Jewish lobby managed to defeat the Egyptian candidate for UNESCO, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni who lost to his Bulgarian competitor Irina Bokova.” Mohamed Salmawy, president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union described the result of the election as a dangerous development in the history of UNESCO and considered what happened to be a ‘politicization’ of an organization that should presumably rise above political disputes and work on building cultural ties between civilizations.

Worse than the defeat of the Egyptian candidate however, were the attempts to mislead the public by implying there was an international European-American-Israeli conspiracy against Egypt, Arabs and Muslims. In fact, those who promote this conspiracy theory pose the greatest danger to Egypt in the long term.

So, was this a loss for Egyptians? Yes, and the result provides supporting evidence, but we can still find solace in the fact that it is an “honorable defeat” because the Egyptian candidate received 27 votes; only four votes short of his Bulgarian competitor. It is indeed an honorable defeat compared to our bid to host the 2010 World Cup when Egypt did not receive a single vote.

Competitions necessarily mean there are winners and losers. If Zamalek, for instance, beats Ahly, Ahly fans undoubtedly feel disappointed and may even be angry. However, if Ahly claims its loss was due to a conspiracy, then any sound-minded person will take them for fools!

This explains my astonishment at Mohamed Salmawy’s comments. The conspiracy theory is what losers resort to in order to justify their loss. It is an attempt to evade individual as well as national responsibility.

The world does not bear any grudges against our society, civilization or culture. If they did, why do 10 million tourists swarm to Egypt each year, the majority of whom are from Europe and the US? Aren’t these the very same people that Mohamed Salmawy, leader of Hosni’s election campaign, accuses of conspiring against the Egyptian candidate! If the entire world was stacked against Arabs and Muslims, how was the Senegalese Muslim Ahmed Mukhtar Ambo elected director general of UNESCO 20 years ago? Or how did Mohamed el-Baradei, who is an Egyptian Muslim, become head of the International Atomic Energy Agency? Still, how did Boutros Boutros Ghali, another Egyptian, become secretary general of the United Nations? Not to mention several eminent Egyptian figures who obtained international awards, such as Nobel Prize winners Naguib Mahfouz, Ahmed Zowail and Mohamed el-Baradei. The Egyptian popular saying, “a bad workman always blames his tools” best describes this situation and those who believe this conspiracy theory.

How many Egyptians had heard of Bulgaria and its winning candidate before the election, and why would Israel conspire against Egypt, with whom it signed a peace treaty 30 years ago and whose officials are received by the President in Sharm el-Sheikh all year round?

By the same token, why would the US be involved in this alleged conspiracy only a few months after President Obama visited Egypt to give a key speech to the Islamic world from Cairo University? At the time of Obama’s visit, the official media touted the crucial role played by Egypt in the region and American awareness of this role. Then came Mubarak’s visit to the US only three months ago, during which time Mubarak hailed Egyptian-American ties as “strategic” in nature.

Why would the US give $2 billion to Egypt in economic assistance, and then culturally conspire against it, and how did Mohamed Salmaway learn which countries voted for the Bulgarian candidate when the vote was conducted by secret ballot?

The positions states take in such situations are often known beforehand, either because they publicly announce them, or because there are interests and moral ties. Just as representatives from Arab and African states voted for Farouk Hosni, representatives from European states supported the Bulgarian candidate, whose country is a member of the European Union.

Official media previously said that Ismail Serag el-Din’s loss in the previous UNESCO election was the result of promises offered by his Japanese competitor to give generous aid to countries which voted for him. State-run media, in fact, makes a habit of misleading the public, claiming that the elections were corrupted by conspiracies and bribery. One reader of Al-Masry Al-Youm compared it to the National Democratic Party fighting an election in Beheira.

Another reader, who appears more informed that Mohamed Salmawy and Shadia Qenawy, the Egyptian ambassador to UNESCO, commented, saying, “What has Farouk Hosni achieved in order to be elected? Why was the other candidate [Irina Bokova] chosen?” Arabs are obsessed with the conspiracy theory. We think everyone is conspiring against us, and we refuse to listen to other points of view, even if they are correct. Perhaps the poor achievements in the fields of culture, education and science explain why Farouk Hosni flopped. This is how we feel and this is what they know about us. It is always good to be honest with oneself. Talk about cooking the results and rigging the election should be brushed aside and the situation dealt with firmly. Empty talk about conspiracies and the politicization of UNESCO should be abandoned. These people are not imposters, they are reasonable people who are capable of making their own decisions, otherwise, why would they be developing while we are falling behind.

Similar to the reader, I wondered about what the Bulgarian candidate has done for her country and what the Egyptian candidate has done for his.

International media said that Irina Bokova was among the youth leaders who resisted totalitarian communist rule in Bulgaria, until its demise in the late 1980s. Bokova was one of the advocates for freedom and a prisoner of conscience.

On the other hand, has Farouk Hosni done anything similar before, or even after his appointment as minister? Has he backed up any heavyweight intellectual who was persecuted or imprisoned? What efforts has he exerted in support of Nasr Hamed Abou Zeid, Ayman Nour or Nawal el-Sedawy over the last two decades of his mandate?

How does this compare to the stand taken by Ahmed Lotfi el-Sayed, former president of Cairo University, when Taha Hussein was persecuted for his book on pre-Islamic poetry? El-Sayed threatened to resign if the government did not take back its decision to send Taha Hussein to trial for his opinions. The government conceded el-Sayed’s demand, and 20 years later, Taha Hussein became minister of culture.

God knows best.