A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, September 13, 2012

There's Good News and Bad News This Month for Farouq Hosni

Amid all the Sturm und Drang in the last couple of days, a reminder that there is still room for absurdity: The Sharja International Book Fair has announced that the winner of this year's "Cultural Personality of the Year" award — which comes with a 50,000 dirham prize — has gone to former Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni. Egypt is also the guest of honor at this year's Book Fair. The timing is interesting since only last week, Hosni was charged with corruption:
Mr. Hosni, who was made culture minister in 1987 and was close to Mrs. Mubarak, failed to convincingly explain how he had gotten about $3 million in assets, the state news media said, and has been referred to court for trial. In a slightly different account, Al Ahram, a semiofficial newspaper, said Mr. Hosni was asked to return about $1.5 million in state assets and was fined the same sum.
He claims he's innocent, but it is kind of interesting that, while he's charged with this, he's being given an award described as follows:
given to a distinguished person, organization or company whose cultural, literary or social contribution to society is found to be invaluable and of high caliber, deserving rightful appreciation and recognition.
Even before he was ousted in the revolution against Mubarak, Hosni was widely criticized as a Culture Minister in Suzanne Mubarak's pocket, while (allegedly) lining his own. The Sharja authorities emphasized that  they were rewarding Hosni for his tenure as Culture Minister, but as one Egyptian cultural figure noted:
Farghali said that, if the award was to honor Hosni’s tenure as culture minister, that time was hardly sterling, and that “most of the intellectuals have seen a lot of catastrophes during the twenty-something years he spent as culture minister, from the stolen work of Van Gogh to the burning of the Beni Suef culture center, where a number of our best theater artists, writers, and critics died.”
At one point he was forbidden to leave Egypt, so it's not certain if he'll be able to accept the award at the ceremony in November.

Next up: the Nobel Peace Prize to North Korea? 

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