|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
2 - 8 August 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Belittled abroadSir- We are outraged by recent events here in Ottawa, Canada, where our national [Egyptian] flag was taken down and the embassy sign was either defaced or hidden by what seemed like direct orders from the ambassador. Apparently, these drastic, unlawful measures were taken to prevent a special group of Egyptian residents from marching on the embassy to voice their concerns and opinions to the ambassador.
Though we might disagree with the political rationale of the protest and the group's clear agenda to embarrass the Egyptian government, we enjoy our rights to freedom of expression as Canadian citizens. We have the right not only to disagree with authorities, but also to be heard and protected under the provisions of Canadian law. Unfortunately, the marching crowd was barred from the embassy and were not given the opportunity to meet with the ambassador. The Egyptian ambassador clearly did not realise that protesting residents already know the location of the embassy, so in the end, the removal of the flag was just futile, provocative and insulting.
Unfortunately, we have lived through another more humiliating fiasco on our National Day. The ambassador decided to hold the celebrations of the end of the Francophonie tournaments on National Day, while at the same time presenting a replica of a funerary mask of King Tut to the City Hall of Hull, Quebec. As Egyptian residents, we were outraged and offended to have our National Day celebration included with other events of less importance or significance. This joint celebration, conducted under the auspices of a foreign city, trivialised the significance of our National Day. Speaking for many Egyptian residents, we would have preferred to celebrate our National Day in the national capital, or on Egyptian soil -- like the grounds of the ambassador's residence. In effect, the ambassador lowered her official status below that of a municipal official of a minor Canadian city.
Unfortunately, the ambassador has departed from the normal procedures of celebrating the National Day in Ottawa. To add insult to injury, by holding the National Day celebration in Hull, the ambassador's official presence could be construed as conferring tacit Egyptian support to the separatist government of Quebec. The ambassador's action and lack of sensitivity to political realities in Canada could be construed as an affront to the Canadian government.
It is high time that the Egyptian minister of external affairs look seriously into the impact of this consistent pattern of diplomatic incompetence. As a long time resident of Ottawa, I can safely vouch that symbolic acts, perceptions and gestures have tremendous impact on the official policies of the government towards Egypt in many areas. The failure to remedy this sorrowful situation will only lead to a serious erosion of what is left of the official good will that had been fostered over the years.
A M Abdel-Latif, PhD
Fear of the unknownSir- I enjoyed very much reading Hani Shukrallah's column this week ("Fear of penetration", Al-Ahram Weekly, 26 July-1 August). If anything, it brilliantly illustrates how the Egyptian "Left" is actually a very right-wing movement -- characterised by xenophobia, fear of the outside world and worship of homogeneity and power.
Centre for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy
University of Colorado,
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