The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Farouk Hosni won't step out of his house

The oddest controversy has been taking place in Cairo over the last few days. Last Friday, al-Masri al-Youm published an interview with Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni in which he regretted that the veil had become so popular in the country. By Friday afternoon, the Muslim Brotherhood had already issued a scathing statement condemning Hosni and accusing him of having insulted the Egyptian people. On Sunday, he did not attend the opening of parliament and Hosni Mubarak's speech there (more on that later), allegedly because of "high tension." On Monday, parliament discussed the scandal and a coalition of Muslim Brotherhood and NDP MPs - 130 altogether - put out a joint petition calling his resignation. He was attacked in parliament by top NPP figures such as Speaker Fathi Surour, presidential chief of staff Zakariya Azmi and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Chehab. At least two MPs accused Hosni of being gay, and many more wanted him to resign or be sacked. Rarely has an attack against a minister gotten so personal. Even though Hosni had issued an apology (albeit a pretty mild one), the government promised to bring him to parliament to answer MPs' questions. There are even lawsuits being prepared against him, although I'm not sure on what grounds. Yesterday, Hosni told the press he would refuse to come out of his home "until I have been rehabilitated and my honor restored by the Assembly."

Farouk Hosni has been culture minister since 1986. He is known for being close to First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, and was protected by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif (read: someone higher up) last year after calls for his resignation over the Beni Suef theater fire scandal. There must be some interesting conversations taking place around the presidential dinner table these days...

One thing that strikes me about all this is that religious politics have been coming back with a vengeance for the last third of this year. For the first six months, all the MB could talk about was political reform. Now they grab every opportunity to score points on the religious issues. And why is the NDP tagging along? Who in the regime wants to get rid of Hosni? To make room for another Gamal Mubarak acolyte maybe?