25 jun. 2009

Farouk Hosni: "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt"

Farouk Hosny (or Hosni), (born 1938 in Alexandria) is an Egyptian abstract painter who was appointed in 1987 to the position of Minister of Culture, which he currently still holds.
In an interview published in November 2006, Farouk Hosni sparked controversy among many religious Muslims, particularly the clergy, after stating publicly that the traditional Muslim veil for women, the hijab, "is a step backward for Egyptian women". Hosny said, "women with their beautiful hair are like flowers and should not be covered up" and "religion today is linked only to appearances, while every woman's veil should be inside her, not outside." The dominance of the conservative party in Egypt also leads to a very conservative religious mindset. Farouk Hosni's views that men should be veiled if girls are and that men's hair is no more or less sinful than women's hair were shocking. Also he publicly denounced the "Moufti," people who are specially educated in the Koran and trained to give their views of Islam, and he said that they are worthless and are giving faulty image to the true Islam. His views were controversial, but was shared by a minority of Muslims who believe that hijab/veil is a step backward for Egyptian women and Egyptian culture.
Hosni remains in his job and said that he didn't call for stripping women of their veil, but that the veil style coming from the Arabian Peninsula (the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf) is not appropriate for Egyptian women.

In 2008 Farouk Hosni provoked a further controversy by declaring publicly that he would personally burn all Israeli books in Egyptian libraries if he could, which aroused charges of antisemitism against Hosni, despite his referencing "Israeli," not "Jewish," books. He later backtracked, issuing A Message to the World on his website, indicating that his statement was an exaggeration.

Hosni is a leading candidate to become the Director General of UNESCO at its 2009 elections. However, the backlash regarding the book burning comments may taint his candidacy.

ADL launched a major campaign to oppose the candidacy of Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni for Director-General of UNESCO, saying that "throughout his tenure, Farouk Hosni has consistently promoted policies that contravene the founding principles of UNESCO through his entrenched opposition to cultural exchanges with Israel and his hostility toward Israeli culture.” ADL sent letters to 27 E.U. foreign ministers detailing Hosni's long history of hostility toward Israeli-Egyptian cultural exchanges.

ADL also took ran an advertisement in major U.S. and European newspapers calling attention to Hosni’s most infamous statement: “I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt.”

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