Thursday, March 8, 2007

More Pots & Kettles

(Or J'accuse this, Hosni)

It's been quite a while since I've indulged in a pot-calling-the-kettle-black post, but a headline I just read is making me see red, so off we go ...

... but before I vent, let me say that the BBC recently conducted a poll in which 28,000 were asked to rate a dozen nations as having a positive or negative influence in the world. Canada came out as number 1 (Israel was last). But it would seem that of these 28,000 people, none were Egyptian nationals. The source of my uncanny insight, you ask? Ahhhh .... here comes the rant (and the much anticipated headline):

Egypt cries racism after Canada football ban for wearing hijab

Yes, the fabled
Black Land, the Land of the Nile is pointing a rather menacing j'accuse-ing finger at the Great White North for its "mounting signs of racism and intolerance". The story of a young female soccer (not football) player who was recently expelled from a match because she refused to remove her hijab (a league rule which, I might add, she had been apprised of before the game), has made headlines in Canada and now around the world.

The referee who blew the whistle on 11-year old Asmahan Mansour is himself a Muslim and voiced his concerns that her hijab presented a safety issue. In fact, "t
he Quebec Soccer Association said the ban on hijabs is to protect children from being accidentally strangled." The scarved pre-adolescent vows to continue her crusade to allow Muslim soccer players to wear the hijab " even though the the world's top soccer association has refused to change its rules on the issue."

Do I have any sympathy for Ms. Mansour? I would certainly have a great deal of sympathy for her if she died because another pint-sized player stomped on her scarf and effectively garroted the girl. But I have a hard time seeing her as a victim of racism, especially in light of her deliberate flouting of a rule which she had foreknowledge of, but I do admire her tenacity and desire to effect change peacefully. She has every right to express her dissatisfaction with a rule, law, or regulation that she deems unfair. You see, in Canada you can do such things and not end up in prison or have your house burned.

But somehow this (i.e., the concern that Ms. Mansour's scarf might strangle her) makes Canada anti-Islamic. I find it curious that
Egypt has decided to make itself the Mouthpiece of Tolerance. Egypt's treatment of its indigenous Christian sect, the Copts (which the government estimates to be around 6% but is probably more than double that), has been less than laudatory. How less is less?

The government of Egypt enforces onerous Hamayouni restrictions on building or repairing churches, restrictions that do not apply to mosques.

The Copts’ ability to exercise their basic right to free worship is frustrated by Egypt’s complex, and frequently arbitrary, requirements for building and repairing churches or church-owned buildings. These culminate in the requirement that the State President must personally approve all building applications, and the Provincial Governors must approve all applications for repairs, even for something as small as repairing a toilet or a broken window. The government of
Egypt applies religiously-discriminatory laws and practices concerning conversion, marriage, parenthood, education, and clergy salaries. The government of Egypt has effectively restricted Christians from senior government, political, military, or educational positions, and there is increasing discrimination in the private sector.

That's a lot less. Yes, this is a country which made its own international headlines (thanks to Journalists Without Borders) for its continued harrassment ( including the arrest & censorship) of Coptic blogger
Hala Helmy Botros who, among other things, had

"accused the political authorities and police of complicity in the attacks against Copts on 19 January when they tried to restore their church in the village of Edyssat (near Luxor). Houses were burned and the church was destroyed in the course of this violence, in which two Copts were killed and several others injured."

I am a little disappointed that Egypt hasn't slung a few fistfuls of Nile silt at the FIFA since it said that "it would not alter the law dealing with items that a player is entitled to wear." I can't imagine why Egypt might be unwilling to offend the international football federation.

There is a strong temptation to make puerile and ham-fisted comments about those in glass pyramids not throwing stones but I'll graciously refrain. But not so gracious that I won't mention that according to the most recent United Nations report, Canada was ranked the 6th best place in the world to live. Is it perfect? Hardly. But where did Egypt - the Land of Tolerance - place? ... 111th. One hundred & eleventh makes for a very black pot.

Enough said. End of rant.

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