Outgoing Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosny has declared that Jewish artefacts could be displayed in an Egyptian synagogue. The Egyptian daily Masry al-Yom carried the story (with thanks: Roger).
This is the first time that a senior Egyptian government figure has publically welcomed an idea which the association Nebi Daniel, whose aim is to safeguard Egypt's Jewish heritage, has been pushing for some years. There were not enough artefacts for a Jewish museum, however, the minister said.
Speaking to members of an Egyptian-British business association, the minister said: "Egypt has never been biased against any religion. Instead, it has accepted all religions and Jewish (sic) have been on this land since the Pharaohs. We accept Jews' thought, religion, heritage and civilization away from politics, as politics have nothing to do with civilizations."
In the name of 'cultural diversification and acceptance of the Other', Hosny even went as far as to call for 'non-divine' religions to be accepted. "This is part of freedom of religion and if we reject them we are ignorant and backward," he said. Presumably he was referring to religions such as Buddhism, currently not recognised by the Egyptian state, unlike Judaism and Christianity. The minister has not tried to encourage cultural ties with Israel, however.
Farouk Hosny, an artist who has been Egyptian cultural minister since 1987, is a candidate for the post of Director-General of UNESCO, but has earned a reputation for controversial remarks. Jewish organisations questioned his suitability (see here and here) for UNESCO after Hosny had allegedly called for the burning of Israeli books in Egypt. He has since claimed that he used a turn of phrase which was misinterpreted.
Hosny is a strong contender to be appointed to the UNESCO post now that a Moroccan candidate has bowed out.