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.
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.