Farouk Hosni's longings, Ahli blues, beggary, playful come-ons, Romeos and Juliets and even skullduggery hit the headlines, note Gamal Nkrumah
and Mohamed El-Sayed
With a bit of luck, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni might end up being the next secretary general of the UNESCO. The luck required for this outcome depends to a great degree on the goodwill of the United States of America. Yet eyebrows will be raised both by the timing and by the viscous verbal abuse hurled by the Israelis and their backers in Washington who would not like to see Hosni head UNESCO.
There is truth in that. Pundits in Egypt are unanimous in their support for Hosni's bid for the UNESCO top job.
The nightmare scenario is that Hosni would lose due to deliberate Machiavellian machinations by the Israelis and the Americans. Hosni is as popular as ever among artists and intellectuals in the country. It appears that newspapermen are now backing his bid. He now has a growing throng of supporters among journalists and the public.
Most pundits abhorred the manner in which Washington throws its weight about. Writing in the official daily Al-Ahram, distinguished columnist Salama Ahmed Salama tackled the challenges lying ahead of Hosni's in his quest for the UNESCO's top job. "If the Arabs have succeeded in uniting behind one candidate -- Farouk Hosni -- this was just the easiest part of the battle. There remains other blocs whose true intentions are still unknown ... the US with its influential strategies and clear bias and tendency towards using its influence is the key player in the battle that should be taken into consideration."
Many commentators saw the entire race for the UNESCO top job as a question of national pride and prestige. Even opposition and independent papers rallied behind Hosni, considering his triumph as a matter of national concern. "The situation is critical. The Egyptian presidency should take an action so that the American resentment of Hosni's candidacy might not be adopted by other countries, which could result in his failure to take over the position," wrote Hamdi Rizq in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. "Presidential intervention will prevent Israel from working against Hosni," Rizq contended. He concluded that Israel is trying to thwart Hosni's efforts to secure the UNESCO post because of his stance against cultural normalisation between Egypt and Israel. "Tel Aviv seeks a normalisation of cultural relations ... it considers him as an anti-Semite in spite the fact that he is ethnically a Semite himself."
On an entirely different note, the prickly question of love and romance between Muslims and Christians preoccupied the pundits. Why must a Muslim girl fall in love with a Muslim man? Does she not have the right to fall heads over heels with a Christian beau? And, must the Christian give up his religion in order to marry his Muslim sweetheart?
These are pertinent questions indeed that have come to the fore in recent months. Writing in the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, Sahar El-Mogi commented on the case of a most unfortunate Muslim girl who happened to have fallen in love consecutively with three Coptic young men. In the end, she was not permitted to marry any of them because none of them was willing to give up his faith. "This young woman, Dina, represents a category of young men and women on both sides of the religious divide -- Muslims and Christians. They fell in love with paramours of a different confessional belief. They were therefore unacceptable. The romantic relationship was doomed to failure because of conventional wisdom that stipulates that couples of different religious persuasions cannot be betrothed. This is not just a question of religions or traditions," El-Mogi asserted. "The problem lies in the way our society deals with young people and their problems."
Another issue that deals with the challenges facing the youth of Egypt, and in particular pertaining to young girls is that of the sexual harassment they face on the streets of Cairo and other urban centres. It has emerged as the favourite pastime of young Egyptians to glare at each other and scrutinise their hairdos and their attires. The meaningless diversion is a national calamity that bodes ill.
Writing in the daily Al-Akhbar, Samir Abdel-Qader criticised a phenomenon that became a dominant feature of Egyptian streets. "Gazing at passing people has become one of the unrefined arts in Egypt. Wherever you walk, sit down or stand up you find eyes directed at you from every side, glaring."
The most alarming aspect of this phenomenon is that the gaze is invariably judgmental and faultfinding.
And, another problem plaguing the streets of Cairo and other major Egyptian urban centres is the scourge of beggary. "Statistics released by the International Labour Organisation show that there are more than one million beggars in Egypt whose daily income is not less LE300. Other statistics conducted by the National Centre for Researches show that there are around two million beggars in Egypt," wrote Mahmoud Khalil in Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt's most popular indeoendent daily. "The business of begging has become has become the most suitable for Egyptians as laziness has become a dominant feature of their characteristics."
And, again yet another baneful affliction of the roads of the country is the increasing incidence of accidents. The daily Al-Ahrar reported on the horrific road accident that took place in Minya. "A bus fell in Al-Ibrahimiya ditch, killing 57, leaving 15 injured," read the front-page headline of the paper. The number of people killed in road accidents in Egypt is now estimated to top the 6000 per year mark, according to government statistics. This is an alarming rate the paper concluded and necessitates urgent action.
Sports, or rather football, received much attention from the pundits. Writing in the daily official Al-Ahram, veteran sports critic Hassan El-Mistikawi noted that "journalists, TV and radio presenters are wondering were in shock, wondering why Ahli did lose to the Mexican team." His conclusion was contrite and simple. The Mexican team Pachuca is far better than Ahli. Mexico is always present in world cups and always plays with the giant teams," he noted. "Unfortunately, we always interpret our defeats as an act of God or as a result of a conspiratorial act, or because of bad weather, or bad playground, or referees, or because of jennies, or because the Satan America. We never admitted that we lose because we are weak and our competitors are strong," wrapped up El-Mistikawi.