Monday, May 17, 2010

Letters from Egypt: What NOT to Discuss


You are taught from an early age – or at least should have been taught – that two major topics to never discuss are religion and politics. Well, in Egypt, you can add another one to that list: the Holocaust.

I took a spontaneous road trip this weekend to Sharm el-Sheikh. When I returned and began checking my emails, I went to my Cairo Scholars message folder. Inundated with the same subject line were what seemed like tons of messages (How to Handle: Holocaust Deniers). As I will not disclose what those emails contained, for listserv privacy purposes, I will say that this is a common problem you will face in this region.

Personally, I only know of one person who denies that the Holocaust ever occurred and I have avoided any type of conversation regarding the subject as I like the person and don’t want to end on a bad foot. You will hear every excuse in the book as to how and why the Holocaust never occurred. Whether it be something as outlandish as pictures being digitally altered by Hollywood Zionists or politically-motivated US officials moving against Palestine. The reasoning behind such ideology is never ending.

A friend of mine is a history teacher in an American school, so I posed the question to her asking how her students received their lesson on WWII. I had heard rumors that in some schools, the lesson on WWII is skipped entirely. My friend said that since it is an American curriculum, they go over it but she has students who debate and deny it in class.

You might think that most of these non-believers are lower-class, uneducated Egyptians, but that simply isn’t true. As I’ve said, I have never experienced any kind of rhetoric based on this subject matter because I came into this region knowing how sensitive it is and my suggestion to all of you is to avoid it at all cost – at least if you want to keep friends.

Whether or not you support Israel or Palestine, it is important to remember that you will never have the same views as someone else and tackling such sensitive material can cause an unnecessary argument which could be anything but a respectful debate.

Another point of interest is that no matter what country you are from, you have studied different material in school. There is even a difference among states in the US and their curriculum. For instance, I grew up in the South and a major part of our history is the Civil War. However, friends that grew up outside the South didn’t focus nearly as much time on the civil war. WWI and WWII differ greatly from British recorded data and US lessons. It could be said this is just propaganda in order to continue loyalty toward one’s native country because let’s be honest, if we all knew the complete truth of actions taken by our own countries, we would be less than pleased on all accounts.

Coming soon…

In other news, I took on a new volunteer gig as I was previously volunteering to teach English at a center for Sudanese refugees and decided to take on a new activity: baby washing. Once I get the pictures, I will post information for any of you that have some spare time and would like to help out in the community.

4 comments:

  1. I had this discussion with my Egyptian family lol it took me some time to understand it, but the basic premise is not that they deny the holocaust, but that it was not simply a jewish holcaust. It was a holocaust of all people deemed second class citizens - poor, dark-skinned whatever, not just jewish in religion. Which, actually makes some sense if we consider what Hitler's theory was about the master race. I mean, how could there be a master race 0f white skin blue eyed, if they let Arabs live but killed the Jews?

    Of course, Allah knows best, I couldnt say I know the truth, but since living on this side of the world I have come to learn a lot about how things work outside my own country, and the fact is that the Jewish people do control the media and much more in America, so who knows if certain "aspects" were left out of the history books or other parts exaggerated. I mean, we cant believe something is true simply because we are taught it.

    The funny thing is, my 16 year old son was the one who was getting huffy and puffy when my husband was trying to insinuate that something different could have happened than he was taught in school. ANd my husband is very smart, he would never deny that it didnt happen - just that it didnt happen the way Westerners are taught it did.

    Interesting topic though. I will have to ask more Egyptians about this lol

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  2. Hi... not to be a pest, but I currently live in the South. Specifically, Florida. In the high school curriculum here, there is barely a mention of the decades of massacres of the Seminoles and the removal of indigenous tribes from their ancestral lands, and if you ask they average Floridian who Chief Osceola is... they basically have no idea. I'm just saying.... selective memory is not just an Egyptian thing. It's alive and healthy in America, Israel, Turkey, Russia... and on and on... ;-)

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    Replies
    1. Not discussing a topic which you know to be true and vehemently denying a tragic happening which spawned WWII are two incredibly different things.

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  3. Hi... not to be a pest, but I currently live in the South. Specifically, Florida. In the high school curriculum here, there is barely a mention of the decades of massacres of the Seminoles and the removal of indigenous tribes from their ancestral lands, and if you ask they average Floridian who Chief Osceola is... they basically have no idea. I'm just saying.... selective memory is not just an Egyptian thing. It's alive and healthy in America, Israel, Turkey, Russia... and on and on... ;-)

    ReplyDelete