Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Egypt's Culture Minister on "Israeli books"

Playing with metaphors of book burning is still politically fraught, particularly in the Middle East. Recently, Egypt’s Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, a liberal and touted as a candidate to head UNESCO, has drawn fire from writers and diplomats for proclaiming in parliament on 10 May 2008: “I’d burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt," in reply to questioning from an opposition MP (Hosni, it can be assumed, may not have been aware that this was the 75th anniversary of the original Nazi bookfires in Berlin).
As would be expected of any sure-footed politician, Hosni has since suggested that his remark needs to be put in perspective, but this has not stopped the Simon Wiesenthal Centre writing to UNESCO suggesting that as a “literary pyromaniac” he may not be the man for the top job. Hosni, it's apparent, regrets the remark, and later told AFP that he had merely used “a popular expression to prove something does not exist… A minister of culture cannot demand that a book be burnt, and that includes an Israeli book.”

(There are several reports online; here chiefly from the report published on the European Jewish Press website, written by Alain Navarro, 23 May 2008).

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