Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Laws of Censorship Disquised

I felt the need to write a second article on the recent tightening of Egyptian law particularly on a couple of points.

Firstly people scrawling their name on a monument is a violation of our shared cultural heritage and nobody other than the vandal cares that you were there. Such childish vandalism should be treated harshly to discourage others from doing similar whether 6-12 months in an Egyptian prison and or a fine of LE150 000 (that's about $30 000) will be a deterrent is yet to be seen.

My second point is a gripe with technicalities being the distortion of the word "antiquity". I accept that the word "antiquity" may have a different content in the Arabic language ( I doubt that though, ) however, the dictionary description of an "antiquity" is "something before the middle ages" or a thousand years old approximately or more than.

The new Egyptian law refers to an antique as an antiquity, an antique being anything more than one hundred years old and that now those who inherit antiques must report them to the Supreme Council of Antiquities within six months as is true of anyone owning an antique.

This author here has a small library with a large number of the books being that more than one hundred years of age and that is what bothers me that there are probably many such home libraries in Egypt where the antique books now classified as "antiquities" need to be reported to the antiquities ministry within 6 months.

A clever tool to use the SCA to potentially edit home libraries of books deemed undesirable or to remove from home libraries books designated as desirable on behalf of the government.

Remembering of course that the minister of culture is Farouk Hosni who is the boss of Dr. Zahi Hawass head of the SCA. The minister of culture Farouk Hosni is the very same man who stood up in the Egyptian parliament and proclaimed that he would burn in front of the parliament any Israeli books found in Egypt's national library.

Minister Hosni has in the past blamed western Zionists for his loss as the head of UNESCO and no doubt carries a grudge. Now I guess instead of burning books in the Egyptian parliament it will have to be done in some dark boiler room over at the SCA but no doubt those books are still on that list.

The new powers granted to the Supreme Council of Antiquities and its head over a play on words is almost certainly not a good thing to the preservation of Egypt's culture and as long as Farouk Hosni is the Egyptian minister of culture these questions will hang over his ministry and the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

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