Ever Heard Of Farouk Hosni?


Well, you might be hearing a lot more about him. Farouk Hosni is set to secure a top U.N. role  – despite  having declared he would burn Israeli books.  Now he’s being named as a potential new director general of UNESCO – the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Farouk’s outburst against Israeli literature came in May 2008, in the Egyptian Parliament, where he has served as Culture Minister for over twenty years. When another politician asked if there were Israeli books in a new library in Alexandria, Farouk Hosni responded:

‘If there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you.’

Hosni also banned the film, ‘The Band’s Visit’, an Israeli movie about a poor Egyptian band that is marooned in an Israeli backwater.

Now a number of Jewish authors, artists and film makers have expressed alarm over Farouk’s possible appointment to such an important UN position. Among them are Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel, journalist Bernard-Henri Levy and filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, all of whom have expressed their concerns in French newspaper Le Monde, last week. They cite other comments by Farouk in 2001 when he described Israeli culture as ‘an inhuman culture…aggressive…pretentious…’

Their protest piece in Le Monde called on world governments to act, saying: ‘We invite all countries dedicated to liberty and culture to take the initiatives necessary to avert this threat and avoid the disaster that would be his nomination.’

However, the Israeli government is believed to have withdrawn  its protest against Farouk’s candidacy last week, after a meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has said that Farouks’ comments were reminiscent of ‘the language and actions of Nazi ‘minister of culture’ Josef Goebbels’.

The German Council of Culture has also joined the debate. Chief Executive Olaf  Zimmermann told journalists that anyone who ‘failed to respect the diversity of the world’s cultures’ should not be permitted to head global policy.

The new director general of UNESCO will be announced in October.

Given the UN’s recent hypocrisy with regard to Israel, sounds like Farouk Hosni would be right at home there.

7 thoughts on “Ever Heard Of Farouk Hosni?

  1. Actually, I am an Egyptian, a Muslim even, and this post might sound weird to all of you.
    I, personally believe that every culture around the world should be respected. And even though, I disagree on lots of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinian people, that doesn’t mean I won’t read or see Israeli films. In fact, that would encourage me to see more just to discover the other point of view, and, Farouk Hosni practices discrimination everywhere, against Muslims even, believe it or not, and a sensitive position like the one he was running for requires the acceptance of the educational and the cultural diversity around the world.
    He was the wring candidate and now he lost.

  2. My Greek Orthodox parents were born in Istanbul and thrown out in the 1950’s. My brother is married to a Jewish girl whose parents where thrown out of Alexandia in the late 1960’s.

    I find the views of Mr Hosny very disturbing, I dont think of him as Alexandrain in either the modern sense or, as anyone who ought to discuss the library there, in the classical sense, and certainly not to head UNESCO. There are certain cities — start at Alexandria and move your finger north to Beirut, Istanbul, over to Thessaloniki and up to Odessa where Greek, Arab, Turk, Jew, and other Christians have lived side by side. At times that side by side living highlights differences — but mainly it highlights commonalities.

    Those of us from those places ought to deny the intolerance, with our words and our lives.

    Mr. Hosny has a right, if he believes it, to strongly criticize Israel, but the statement on burning Israeli books, as well as his support of serious impediments to freedom of speech which affect Egyptians in General as well, categorically disqualifies him for international civil service job whose very purpose is to foster and support expression.

  3. Prejudice of any kind is a serious charge against someone who would seek to lead UNESCO given that its mission is in large part to fight prejudice. Since UNESCO has been relatively free from posturing on the controversies in the Middle East, anti-Israeli prejudice might be of special concern.

    I note that the Muslim Brotherhood, Copts, the Anti Defamation League and online groups of Egyptian citizens have also opposed Farouk Hosny, based on his record as Minister of Culture, a record which each group appears to feel is antipathetic to their specific culture. Given the mission of UNESCO to promote respect for cultural diversity, the breadth of opposition is disturbing.

    Egypt has an especially rich cultural heritage from its Pharonic, Roman, Islamic, and Colonial past as well as its modern period. It also faces huge challenges in helping its large rural population to deal with rapid cultural change related to the nation’s economic and social development. I have not seen appraisals of Minister Hosny’s success in leading his nation’s efforts to protect all aspects of its cultural heritage, while dealing with the issues of culture and devleopment.

    Even less discussion appears to have taken place with respect to his abilities to lead UNESCO’s Educational, Scientific and Communications efforts. Does he have the background to lead the Organization’s professional staff in these key fields, and the charisma to energize the global networks of support that UNESCO has created in education and science. Is he the leader UNESCO needs as it seeks to help the United Nations system prepare for the coming knowledge society?

    Lets see a thoughtful comparison of Farouk Hosny with the other leading candidates to see which would be most likely to help UNESCO achieve its critically important mission.

  4. JAY – thanks so much for catching that spelling error! I am appalled that I somehow managed to do that!

    Cheers 🙂

  5. I find this alarming as well, but it’s Elie WIESEL, not “Weasel.” Come on now.

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