Egypt: Will Farouk Hosni be Unesco’s Next Director General ?

Date posted: September 22, 2009


 

Egyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni has made it to the fourth round of voting for the post of Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the global institution concerned with genuine dialogue based upon respect for shared values and the dignity of each civilization and culture. His nomination has created a plethora of controversy.

Zeinobia wants to save UNESCO from Farouk Hosni:

Because he is not the best candidate to head this international cultural organization and because he has been a member in corrupted regime for more than 20 years … Again as an Egyptian I refuse this candidacy which I believe is an insult to Egypt before the UNESCO

The vote updates are posted here but Tarek Ez ElDen says that:

عدم إلمام فاروق حسني بلغات أجنبية عقبة اللحظة الأخيرة في مشوار اليونسكو
Farouk Hosni's lack of command of foreign languages seems to be an obstacle in his way to heading the UNESCO

Jewish Refugees gave a more detailed update on the status of the other candidates:

The candidates from Benin, Lithuania, Russian and Tanzania withdrew from the race to be Director-General before yesterday''s third round vote, leaving five names on the ballot slated for 6:30 p.m. tomorrow in Paris, UNESCO said on its website.

The remaining candidates are: Algeria's Mohammed Bedjaoui European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Austria) Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny Bulgarian former foreign minister Irina Gueorguieva Bokova and Ivonne Juez de A. Baki of Ecuador.

Muslims against Sharia do not approve of the Egyptian candidate as well:

He has been criticised for his unbridled hatred of Jews – stated in a pledge that he would burn any books printed in Israel that he found in Egyptian government libraries. He assailed U.S. UNESCO ambassador David T. Killion, claiming that Killion’s criticism of Hosni’s candidacy was motivated by Killion being Jewish. Killion is not Jewish, but even if he were, Hosni has no right to base his reply to Killion’s opposition to him on such a fact.

Notwithstanding Middle East political conflicts, Muslims are commanded to respect Jews as sharers in the revelation of One God. Conspiracy theory is common in the Muslim world, but does not befit a culture minister.

 
Israel Matzav wonders if Farouk Hosni will go down to defeat
 
The New York Times reports that the Egyptians are rebuilding a dilapidated old synagogue in which the Rambam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) served as Rabbi during the last years of his life. I saw that synagogue in 1980. I even have pictures of it. We went inside for no more than a few minutes. There was nothing there.

The Times says that the Egyptians are now rebuilding the synagogue – and Egyptians are discovering that a sizable Jewish community used to live in their country – as a result of their desire to get Farouk Hosni elected as the head of UNESCO. The Times reports that the Egyptians would like to go just far enough for Hosni to win, but no further.

 
Mohamed Abdel Salam of Bikya Masr reported how the Foreign Ministry is intensifying support for Farouk Hosni:
 
As Jewish lobbies, activists and commentators continue to run a smear campaign against the minister, the Egyptian foreign ministry has begun to voice their support for Hosni abroad in efforts to remove worries from Washington and Tel Aviv over his candidacy only days before the election in Paris on September 17.
 
Naila Gabr, the Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organization Affairs and the person responsible for a the nominations of Egyptians for international positions, held a meeting with the ambassadors of Asian and Latin American members of the Executive Board of UNESCO on Thursday, where she asked them to continue their support for the Egyptian candidate, despite international pressures contrary.
 

Joseph Mayton of Bikya Masr argued why Farouk Hosni should be given a chance:

1. Attitude: I have interviewed a number of ministers here and elsewhere and Hosni seems to have that interest that is often lacking with other prominent figures. This is vital to a UN position. He is willing to admit he was wrong (he has told me such in previous interviews) and this was prominent in the Le Monde op-ed he wrote apologizing for the “book-burning” comments he made in Alexandria.

2. He APOLOGIZED: I don’t care whether you are a Zionist Israeli living in an illegal West Bank settlement, the man apologized! Now, why would the international community continue to argue he is anti-Semitic? He argues it is because the West, and Israel, do not want an Arab and/or a Muslim to take over the culture top spot. I agree!

And Bikya Masr quoted the Minister who tried to explain the Israel Saga:

“What I meant is that there are no Jewish books in the ministry of culture libraries,” Hosny began when asked about his statement. “However, one year before that I gave directions to the National Translation Institute to begin translating Jewish and Israeli texts and they are doing it now.

“About the stance of Israel against me, I think it is presumptuous and unjust, because I think that democracy means that it should not affect how nations and people vote,” the minister argued.

The minister has defended his actions, saying that he has done much to buttress the country’s Jewish heritage, including the restoration of all ten Jewish synagogues in the country.

“I have promoted and helped restore much of Egypt’s Jewish history to the country and the comments I made were taken out of context,” Hosni argued.

Meanwhile, Mona ElTahawy does not welcome a book burner into the UNESCO:

What does a security crackdown resembling Saudi-style morality policing have to do with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization?

A lot, given that a serious contender for that UNESCO job is Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s culture minister for the past 22 years. During his lengthy tenure, Hosni has alienated many Egyptians by suffocating cultural and intellectual freedom while giving a leg up to religious zealotry.

A stronger case against Hosni’s bid to lead the U.N. cultural organization would focus on how he has used censorship and disregarded individual freedom to ultimately strip Egypt of its robust culture. He might not have actually burned books, but he has banned plenty. In 2006, Hosni ordered all copies of “The Da Vinci Code” confiscated and banned the film from Egyptian screens. Never mind that the Vatican itself hadn’t called for such a ban, that thousands of Egyptians already owned copies of the book and that bootleg DVDs were already on sale in Egypt.

One of UNESCO’s missions is to promote freedom of expression, so why would it want a director who has so adeptly stifled such freedom?

 In another post, ElTahawy wondered what would the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani have to say to Hosny as she quoted one of his poems and translated it (Full Poem Here):

Would You Permit Me?

في بلاد يغتال فيها المفكرون، ويكفر الكاتب
وتحرق الكتب، في مجتمعات ترفض الآخر، وتفرض الصمت على الافواه والحجر على الافكار،
وتكفر اي سؤال، كان لابد ان استأذنكم ان تسمحوا لي..

In a country where thinkers are assassinated, and writers are considered infidels and books are burnt, in societies that refuse the other, and force silence on mouths and thoughts forbidden, and to question is a sin, I must beg your pardon, would you permit me?

فهل تسمحون لي
ان اربي اطفالي كما اريد، وألا تملوا علي
اهواءكم واوامركم؟

Would you permit me to bring up my children as I want, and not to dictate on me your whims and orders?

And Zeinobia is not impressed with his website:

Farouk Hosni has launched an official website : Farouk Hosny which includes his news, his biography , his personal photo gallery, his so-called achievements, his speeches and interviews…etc !!

Ah and his terrible , really terrible paintings !! Strangely he did not include that criticism in his website.

Did he mention that he used to spy on Egyptians and Arabs in 1970s among his achievement ??

Still Bikya Masr think that he is winning:

Despite a global campaign against Egypt’s Farouk Hosni taking over the helm of the UN’s top cultural job, it appears that the embattled minister is winning, sources have said. According to local Egyptian newspaper sources and a UNESCO official in Paris, Hosni has proven that a global anti-Semitic campaign may not be enough to derail his chances of taking over in Pairs after alleging receiving 22 votes in the first round of balloting.His 22 votes put him clear of the other 8 candidates, but fell short of the 30 votes needed to win the election. A UNESCO official in Paris, who has been watching closely the voting process, says that Hosni’s internal campaign and “his overall nice character” has given him the edge over other candidates, who were thought to be in the advantage.

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