Scenes from Farouk Hosni’s Cultural Farce

Councellor Noha El-Zeini– a deputy chairwoman at the Administrative Prosecution Authority- is a well-reputed Egyptian judge who spoke up about the rigging of the elections which she witnessed in a constituency during the Egyptian 2005 parliamentary elections. She is a professor of law, in addition, received MA degree in literature from the Sorbonne University in Paris, and is a poet and littérateur. She criticizes the Muslim Brotherhood in this article in which she comments on the disgraced remarks of the Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni on the veil, published in the Egyptian Al-Dustoor newspaper on 29/11/2006; however, Ikhwanweb’s editorial policy allows for the expression of a diverse range of opinions and arguments, and we publish this article, expecting comments.

Ikhwanweb, London

This can’t be considered just an improvised remark quoted by a young journalist at the beginnings of her press career while listening to the comment of Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian Minister of Culture, to her colleague who has recently wore the veil to send it as a statement to her newspaper to add fuel to the fire in the Egyptian cultural scene; these remarks said by Farouk Hosni about the veil make us give a deep view at the Egyptian cultural situation which- if ignored- may deform and leave scars on the Egyptian cultural landscape.
First scene

The nature of these statements said by the Culture Minister, Farouk Hosni, is the most prominent in this situation; what happened was that he was meeting young reporters who were seeking statements from him about the Ministry that he owns- I mean that he heads; they included a young journalist who wasn’t wearing the veil, but the month Ramadan with its spiritual atmosphere made her cover her head; then, the minister- 68 years old- saw this and said jokingly:” have your veiled colleagues convinced you of wearing the veil, what is this backwardness? the woman with her beautiful hair is like a rose…etc”; the young woman laughed or at least smiled because His Excellency Minister was kidding with her, or perhaps she tried enthusiastically to defend herself and reject that she is branded with backwardness; her colleague seized the opportunity and asked in a kidding manner she is used to- if she could publish these statements, and he approved without taking her question seriously and without expecting- he or others- that these joking statements would cause all this controversy.
Actually, the changes in our social life makes me call for observing the dividing line between the official’s fun and modesty and the kidding that may distort the official’s image; in this situation, there is a clear difference between a painter who is kidding or flirting with models in his atelier and the same one as a Minister of Culture who is speaking with modesty in front of young female journalists; it is clear also that the painter minister could not realize this dividing line although he has been- and is still- assuming power of the Egyptian culture for so many years .

Second scene

The cries of the angry masses send us quickly to this scene where fierey discussions took place in the People’s Assembly followed by student demonstrations in Al-Azhar and other universities taking to the streets all over Egypt; the scene is dotted with speeches and articles condemning the Minister of Culture accusing him of attacking the veil which is the symbol of chastity and purity; also, complaints are sent to the attorney general for his- Farouk Hosni- contempt of Islam: the scene is- from this point- afflicted with unprecedented moral corruption and full of the disadvantages of the culture of the mob; it reveals the bankruptcy of the popular powers playing in the Egyptian street ; these powers use their abilities of rallying masses whenever there is no security intervention, let alone giving the green light to move; they gather masses in a showoff manner regardless of being for defending one of the key issues of the Egyptian people or for stirring marginal issues; this mob culture is obvious in these rallies, given that nearly every girl who is wearing the veil has been branded with the hollow charge of backwardness which is habitually and sarcastically repeated among family members, professors, heads at work, female and male colleagues in addition to the bums and thugs in the streets; no one of these young women who face sarcasm decide to take to the street in a demonstration or refer the issue to the People’s Assembly or the attorney general or consider the one who said this as showing contempt to Islam

Personally speaking, I feel pity for those chanting such farcical expressions, because I think they fell victims to the culture of defeat and for the feeling of inferiority towards that culture; it is a natural human weakness that should raise pity inside us instead of anger; this culture – the mob culture- which is controlling the Egyptian street presages aborting any serious attempt of reform or change; this is because venting the popular discontent at corruption, defeat and tyranny in trivial issues addresses the desire of the corrupters, thieves, bribees and tyrants; every popular aspiration to change is directed to fighting windmills and every one returns to his daily life thinking that he did his duty towards his Lord and that he has defended- with his voice- the dignity of Islam; this result explains to us all the hubbub and hooplah raised by those who usurped the parliamentary seats against the Minister of Culture; this explains also why the security gave a blind eye to the veil demonstrations that took place all over Egypt.
What seemed to be illogical was the attitude of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentarians towards the crisis; contrary to the several articles that accused the National Party deputies of overbidding on the MB parliamentarians in the veil issue, I think that the reverse is true; that is, the first kick was from the National Party that aims to preoccupy the Egyptian public opinion and opposition groups with trivial conflicts while it works on completing distributing the usurped posts and money and approving the amendments which are tailored by its lawmakers in their dark rooms in order to legalize the process of looting and destroying the corruption-ridden Egyptian nation while people are busy with the veil battle that may be an opportunity for a personal retaliation against the Minister of Culture .

The MB parliamentarians’ attitude appears to be illogical, not because they took the bait quickly from the National Party, as they are used to do so; but because their attitude seemed to be contradictory to the group leaders’ attitude, something that contradicts with the group’s literature regarding the supremacy of the principle of obedience on every single detail inside it; the very next day after the so called statements of the minister and before the showoff session of the People’s Assembly in which the two sides defended the veil, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chairman, declared that the issue of the veil isn’t a priority for the Muslim Brotherhood; Dr. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh – the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shadow Culture Minister – declared that the statements of the Egyptian Minister of Culture do not deserve a response; this makes us wonder is it just a distribution of roles inside the group or that the NDP parliamentarians managed to entice the Brotherhood MPs to the square that they wanted, leaving them search for the way back after the scene ends with the corrupt officials accepting the repentance of their everlasting minister on behalf of Egyptian people and veiled women in particular .

Farouk Hosni’s cultural lapse has a sense of humour and a comic side also; it is obvious in the statement issued by the so called “intellectuals” in solidarity with the Minister; the word ” intellectual” is originally an academic term that has a scientific definition, but in Egypt it describes- in the media- a group of people that may include an intellectual and which is continuously opposing any Islamic trend in the society and in full support to any person who they consider as opponent to this trend; they are always issuing statements that oppose or support and they side with the freedom of opinion provided that the one demanding his freedom of expression isn’t an Islamist; this name ” intellectuals” is put beside other similar names that express a gelatinous bloc which has no specific characteristics like ” businessmen” and ” the intellectuals ” whether they are liberals, leftists or Islamists and other product of the media discourse that gives a definition to those who don’t deserve it.

There are several funny points regarding the statement supporting the Culture Minister:

First: The statement, which implicitly attacks the Islamic veil, was signed by a number of Christians; although I completely believe in the full right of citizenship for the Christians, but I wonder: why haven’t our Christian fellow citizens stop short of involving themselves in the issue of the Islamic veil, whether approving or opposing it- so that they do not make any body think- God forbid – that they intrude themselves in something not their own?

Second: These intellectuals were the ones who demanded ousting Farouk Hosni a year ago after the huge fire of the culture palace of Bani Suwayf; they attacked him fiercely and some of them said in articles that this everlasting minister destroyed culture in Egypt; is it the Minister’s joking remark at the newly veiled journalist accusing her of backwardness, is it the one that constitutes- in ” the intellectuals’ ” opinion- achievements that equal the previous corruptions to the extent that they forgive the past crimes and make them sacrifice for the painter Minister.

Third: These intellectuals who sign on the civilized historical statement in solidarity with the culture minister missed what those enticed shouting angry masses missed: that the Minister- assuming that he said every single word premeditatedly – which is excluded – directed his insult not the veiled women, but to the unveiled ones; he said that the woman
” with her beautiful hair is like a rose”; he is right because he wanted to see, enjoy, and paint; but hasn’t every woman who signed on the farcical statement thought what the woman the resembles a rose mean to the man; he looks at the beautiful rose, gets fascinated by it, then he touches it and smells it and he may put it in a vase or in his jacket buttonhole till it fades with the passage of time then he throws it in the nearest dustbin; does any woman of those intellectuals who signed on the statement to be a rose?; has she learned and struggled and got emancipated and mingled with the society to be just a rose that entertains a man painter minister whose desire to see her is spoiled by the veil? I wondered that the veiled women got infuriated while those who should be enraged and take to the streets are the unveiled women; this is because Farouk Hosni the Culture Minister views them as only beautiful bodies which when revealed entertain voyeurs; what a fierce insult from the Minister to the women who demand emancipation and equality

Post-crisis scene

As for the post-crisis scene, after the lapse which can’t be forgiven from an high-ranking official like minister, it was a black Egyptian comedy that makes the one burst into a fit of continuous laughing out of rage, feeling of defeat and repression; in addition to his statements that ranged from attempting to retreat and apologizing and attempting feign heroism in a manner that may satisfy his supporters among ” the intellectuals ” in addition to his childish anger and confinement in his house, demanding rehabilitation; then he fears losing his post and joins the attempt of calming down the dramatic crisis;

The scandal pops up on air when a satellite channels hosted Mr. Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian Minister of Culture since early 1980s, over the crisis of veil, and the Minister says that the veil isn’t among the “four” pillars of Islam and the program presenter corrects the information well known among primary school children-Muslims or non-Muslims- that the pillars of Islam are five, not four because it is not a room, for example.
With this climatic point in the farce of Egyptian Farouk Hosni’s culture the curtain are dropped on a black comedy that puts all of us in confrontation with ourselves and with the other in order to try to know our positions, what we have reached and find the way out of this dark tunnel we are in for a very long period of time.

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