The preparatory committee for the Independent Conference of Intellectuals has criticized recent statements by Culture Minister Farouk Hosni in which he said that those who had signed a petition calling for his dismissal were “not intellectuals or members of the Egyptian Writers Union."
“Nobody has the right to call himself or herself an intellectual,” the minister said.
Alaa Abdel Hadi, general coordinator of the conference, said that Hosni often made statements and then later retracted them, "which serves to harm himself and others." A recent example of this, he added, was when, following the recent theft of a Van Gogh painting from a Cairo museum, the minister announced that the culprit had been arrested before later backtracking.
Abdel Hadi added that, since the Writers Union was not under the authority of the minister, the latter had no right to request any information from the union concerning the identity of the signatories. He went on to say that Hosni’s statements reflected a "very limited understanding of the meaning of 'intellectual'."
Abdel Hadi further said that signers of the petition, who were among the elite of Egypt, wanted the minister tried for “wasting public money and undermining national interests." He also noted that a total of 50 intellectuals–not five, as Hosni had claimed–had signed the petition so far.
The Culture Minister, for his part, said that none of the signatories in question had made any contribution to the field of Egyptian culture, adding that it was up to the people to bestow the title of “intellectual.”
Hosni had earlier sent a list containing the names of the signatories to the Writers Union in an effort to find out whether or not they were union members.
According to the list–of which Al-Masry Al-Youm has obtained a copy–only five are members of the Writers Union, with the rest being described as poets, activists and journalists, or having question marks next to their names.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.