Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
9 - 15 September 1999
Issue No. 446
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

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Tolerance first

Sir- I am writing in response to Baheieddin Hassan's significant questions and reflections as regards democracy and human rights in the Arab world (Al-Ahram Weekly, 12-18 August). I could not agree more with the writer than NGOs should play a more vital role in "promoting the struggle for democracy". However, I would like to add a few more points.

The "Casablanca Declaration" did not come up with anything new. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been around for over half a century, spells out the basic civil and political rights and fundamental economic, social and cultural rights which human beings in every country should enjoy. What Arab countries are really in need of is not another "declaration" but more honest dedication and devotion to developing respect for human rights; its lack breeds intolerance, prejudice, bigotry and even violence.

Respect for human rights can be taught at all educational levels. Even very young children can be taught how to respect others' opinions, ideas, wishes, privacy, feelings and possessions. Text-books in truly democratic countries help students to appreciate and understand that others have rights that should be respected and also help them to avoid stereotyping others.

Tolerance can be defined as the positive effort to understand others' beliefs, practices and ideas without necessarily having to share or accept them. But we have to learn how to accept ourselves before we can accept others. I do believe that it is high time we started teaching human rights to our children whether in schools, families, places of worship or elsewhere.

Essam Hanna Wahba
Salam Language School

What experiment Sir- It seems that once again the Experimental Theatre Festival is upon us (1-10 September). I hope you will forgive me but every time I hear that name I tend to chortle with laughter! Perhaps fellow Alexandrian Farouk Hosni, the present minister of culture, can explain to us all what possible benefit there can be to the public at large in having sophisticated plays performed in a variety of inaccessible foreign languages like Danish, German, Ukrainian and perhaps Serbo-Croat? Not only that but the programmes for these plays are usually available, each and every year, only after the festival is over. Worse, the theatres these plays are performed in are usually not air-conditioned so that the few miserable wretches who turn up are in for a stifling time! But perhaps we have gone too far without asking the crucial question: can there be experimental theatre in a country with no theatrical tradition to speak of?

Mamdouh El-Dakhakhni

Shocking but true Sir- How low will we in the medical profession stoop? Where are our values? I remember as a child watching my father meticulously measuring a small sign that he was going to hang on his laboratory door. He was making sure that it fell within the specification allowed by the medical syndicate! Nowadays, doctor's names and specialties come in all shapes and sizes, even in neon along main roads. Of late they have started to vie for attention with billboards advertising clothes and mobile phones. What next? Perhaps urchins will start throwing doctors' visiting cards through the windows of passing cars? I hope not!

Dr Reine Naggar


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