Muslim religious bigot in lead for UNESCO job


An Egyptian Cabinet minister who offered to burn Hebrew books last year enters the final straight as favourite for leadership of Unesco today in the face of fierce opposition from Jewish groups and intellectuals in Europe.

Farouk Hosni, 71, an artist who has served as Culture Minister for 21 years, apologised this week for his book-burning call and is still deemed front-runner among seven contenders for the post of director-general of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.


Mr Hosni, who is supported by the Arab League and African nations, had until recently been deemed an easy choice to succeed Koichiro Matsuura, of Japan, as the ninth chief since Sir Julian Huxley was Unesco’s first director-general in the late 1940s.

The latest in a long history of Unesco storms erupted last week with a blistering attack in Le Monde by three Jewish celebrities under the title: “The shame of a disaster foretold”.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, the philosopher-journalist, Claude Lanzmann, the film-maker, and Elie Wiesel, the Nobel peace laureate, urged the international community to block the appointment of a man whom they described as a racist and inciter of hate. They cited his call in the Egyptian parliament last May to burn all Hebrew language books in the Alexandria library. “If there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you,” he said.


Mr Hosni responded on Wednesday with an apology. “I want to solemnly say that I regret the words that I used,” he wrote. “Nothing is more distant to me than racism, the negation of others or the desire to hurt Jewish culture or any other culture.” He said that his remark on the books was delivered in the heat of the moment and should be understood in the light of the suffering of the Palestinian people. He pleaded for understanding and noted that he was deemed to be a disgraceful liberal by Egyptian and Arab conservatives.


The French criticism was echoed by the German Council of Culture. Olaf Zimmermann, its chief executive, said that someone who “failed to respect the diversity of the world’s cultures” should not be allowed to run global cultural and education policy.


He sounds like he would be at home with the other bigots that seem to dominate the UN agenda. Putting a book burner in a UN education seems consistent with the recent traditions of that failed organization.

One of the problems with the Muslim religious bigots is they see the world through the eyes of Palestinian victimization and never take responsibility for the failures of the Palestinian culture that have nothing to do with living next to Israelis. The Arab countries have kept the Palestinians in a state of dependency for over 60 years. This dependency has lead to a culture of "martyr" breeders who send their children out to explode around Israelis rather than to engage in commerce or manufacturing.


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