Friday, February 10, 2006


We were invited to the opening of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sponsored photo exhibition a few of days ago. I say invited, but sadly this wasn’t an exclusive embassy event with mounds of Ferror Roche being passed around on silver platters. As part of our government’s ‘hearts and mind’ offensive in the Muslim world the British Council has been putting on a week of events in Egypt to portray how positive relations are in the UK between muslims and the rest of society. It was introduced by HM Ambassador who spoke in Arabic, which despite being in a stilted English accent was quite impressive.

‘The Art of Integration; Islam In Britain’s Green and Pleasant Land’ was the title of the new photo exhibition undertaken by Peter Sanders. Putting aside the differences in opinion about human representation in art, this was an interesting set of snaps which captured a certain aspect of Muslim life in the UK today. It was surprising that I recognised quite a few of the subjects, which perhaps shows how small the pool of positive subjects there is within a certain circle. Despite the extremely positive images of muslims in the UK (i.e. Mosques built out of local stone, Muslims working in the community as doctors, politicians, businessmen, teachers, lots of playing kids etc etc) its quite clear that some of the journalists present were not suddenly converted from their preconceived opinions. For example one journalist I chatted to asked me about discrimination and racism, riots in Bradford, poor education and increasing curbs on civil rights (the last one is a bit much coming from an Egyptian!). A week of exhibitions, films and workshops aren’t going to sway minds.

Talking about human representation, the furore over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is making waves here as well and has well and truly put a dent in any positive EU charm offensive. After Jummah prayers leaflets were being handed out urging us to ban Danish products including an old favourite Lego. Quite clearly depiction and republication of the cartoons demonstrates at least wanton insensitivity and at worst calculated provocation and insult to nearly all Muslims. I hear that it was the Egyptian foreign minister who kept the pressure on the Danish government urging them to make a public statement which they refused to until recently and far too late after the initial event. Muslim’s are reacting (perhaps over reacting) but the hurt and insult caused on so many levels is real and palpable. The love and respect for held for the Prophet (pbuh) is something that is not fully understood by many but perhaps this is the proverbial silver lining and calmer minds can start explaining this (although really incumbent on all Muslims). Sadly many people have died already, and there are rumours (stress rumours – I don’t want to start one) of retaliatory Quran burnings to the Danish flag burning. It’s easy to become depressed at these events and the world really is in a turmoil but as an optimist I believe that there are better times ahead. And to the guy who wore a ‘suicide vest’ in London in protest – just three words – ‘What A Plonker’.

Lessons are ongoing and am feeling a little saturated and exhausted. We’ll be taking a well deserved break and doing a few touristy things next week once Mrs C Senior and Teacher C arrive in Cairo.

Egypt has just won the African Cup without Mido their star player in a penalty shoot out! Judging by the cheers and car horns outside, we’re not going to get much sleep tonight. As we can’t beat them we’re off to join them and take in some of the atmosphere.


Anonymous Little Miss C said...


9:34 pm  
Anonymous Little Miss C said...

Nice to hear you are enjoying yourself to the maximum...I can almost feel the excitement in Egypt after having read about it all of over the place...Anyway, cool..I'm still alive too, just in case the wonder ever crossed your mind!..It's been quite a formidable week for me (if you want to know more then get in touch - hint hint), and with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf being in town this week, I really have been quite merry myself.

9:40 pm  

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