Al-Ahram Weekly On-line   Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
16 - 22 November 2000
Issue No.508
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Veiling culture

Sir- I was shocked when I learned, from Gihan Shahine's article ("Veiled resentment," Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 October - 1 November), that a French school in Alexandria has dismissed an Egyptian girl and her brothers because she has put on the Islamic veil. I understood that this dismissal was carried out under the pretext that the school is secular.

The article mentioned two strong separate arguments that undermine the school's position: the school has a church and has crosses hung on the walls; and in France (the school's country of origin), students are allowed to wear the Islamic headdress.

I would like to add another important argument : secular or not, any school should encourage freedom of expression, not least of which is freedom of faith.

On another note, I hope the Ministry of Education could find ways to encourage, at the very least, foreign schools to introduce Arabic, Arab history and religion studies to their curriculum. Isn't it a great opportunity for a student raised and educated in Egypt to learn about Arab and Islamic/Coptic culture?

The French school is denying its students the opportunity to "brag" about their multi-cultural education when they graduate and presumably travel to France in the future; and the ministry is passing up an opportunity to spread its nation's rich heritage and culture to the outside world.

Mahmoud Hussein
University of Michigan, USA

American thinking

Sir- Edward Said has been persistent and very effective in creating an analysis of American Zionism in the propaganda machines of the American media. However, Americans are completely unaware of, ignorant about and uninterested in the problems of Israel and Zionism.

Americans are people with powerful tools who have forgotten how to think or to reflect upon the negative images that dance in their Platonic caves. We cannot expect Americans to understand Zionism in the US, especially since 9 out of 10 Americans cannot tell the difference between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Dead Sea or the Persian Gulf. Who are we writing to? Whom do we speak to, and from where? Are we asking the right questions in pointing out, as Edward Said has, that the American media has demonised the Islamic world? Perhaps -- but can we trust Americans to read, when they have recoiled into the depths of their political indecision and refusal to think? Is this not indicative of where Americans are, that they cannot vote because in their slumber they realise that there is no leader but a series of one-issue votes that can give them the comfort they imagine?

Palestinian is equated with terrorism, suicide missions and fundamentalists (a Protestant word), lumped into an amorphous mass of 1.2 billion Muslims. And to be connected with Muslims, you are Osama Bin Laden, Hizbullah, Taliban, and Saddam Hussein. The bottom line: Americans are no longer held responsible for anything and the "others" are suffering under the demise of American thinking, which is dead.

Scott Dennis

The last straw

Sir-All of Cairo knows that we are experiencing severe air pollution. I have written letters and made phone calls to several ministries this year and last year. The official story is that the farmers are burning rice straw. It is unbelievable, unreasonable and criminal for one practice to harm the health of so many other people. It is also very bad for tourism. Not every tourist who comes here is rich. This is a once in a lifetime trip. Some tourists save up for years to come here. On the other hand, if a visitor has a bad experience, they will spread the word to others who will never come at all.

Rice straw can be used for many things. It can be made into mulch or fertiliser. Maybe it can be used to make paper. I hope someone can use this by-product and thereby save our health.

Carol Oneill
Garden City

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