Saturday, 2 July 2011

Rock, scissors, paper! [ *kulu bamia :-) ] (origin French: Qui est le premier?)

kilo bamia (okra)

In this chat, there may appear to be consideration on all fronts but there is sadly no common ground to the basis of the argument. Aspects of morality and literary analysis are two quintessentially different benchmarks. Due credit to the broadcasting presenter for signing out on that note.

Free speech is all about listening to that which we do not necessarily agree with but laying down the law on the other hand is an entirely different matter and what we all need to be wary of. 
Assuming the moral highground is always an easy place to preach from but rarely with much substance.

Mr.el-Hafez’s reference to the Quran is not only unnecessary but decidedly inappropriate since it is actually stated in the Quran that the verses are by no means to be considered poetry; they are defined as transcendental to all human literary exploits and not up for comparison.

Moral dictums will always be with us wherever we are; it's really almost 'a given' as people are so desperate to turn the tide their way.
That goes infinitesimally more so for Egypt today.  
Both curbing and promoting will surface every which way we look.

Scissoring-out sections of a book on the basis of moral codes, personal or otherwise is a slippery slope indeed.  Lines in the sand are instantly blurred. Compromise is not an option since it cannot take place without seriously affecting content in all its layers and therefore right of expression.
Furthermore, does the intended censorship start and stop at sexual graphic detail or is it extended to include anything that does not conform at first sight to  a particular or even global morality? Rhetorical question indeed.

Sympathetically however, we may plead a benign validity to Mr.el-Hafez’s reaction, since he repeatedly points out that first year students, hitherto sheltered, felt shocked and embarrassed. How he perceives the solution is where utter dismay lies.
Had he handled the situation differently, perhaps through an attempt to discuss sensitivities with the ‘nameless’ teacher rather than make such irrevocable moral judgement, the outcome might have surprised him. Casting a slur upon a team of educators is hardly a step in the right direction. Perhaps, once the students had settled in and understood the nature of what freedom of expression comprehensively entails in the art world, the ‘shock absorbers’ would have set in:

Analysis would be understood to be the object of the exercise. Depth of analysis would validate use of whatever imagery is involved or discredit it. No condemnation of any kind necessary.

Even though the press media often relies heavily on title grabbers, no journalist, least of all a reputable one such as Mr.el-Hafez would take kindly to being dictated to, even though his own morality may certainly not be in question.

I remember an occasion when young senior school girls were dealt out a play by an excellent drama teacher. The play appeared to be somewhat pretentiously ‘avant-garde’ and contained lesbian innuendo of a kind. A whole group of girls came to me and expressed their reluctance to take part in it. These particular girls were confident and outspoken so there was no doubt in my mind that sensitivities should be addressed. At first I mentioned that they could just opt out but they felt, since they had been chosen to perform, they would wish to participate in the school play of the year. So, I wrote to the teacher, whose production of another play I had seen and admired, expressing the youngsters' reservations which I was indeed able to appreciate.  Her immediate cooperation was forthcoming and a play of more substance and altogether more suitable for girls of that age was chosen instead. There was no judgement, no condemnation and certainly no cast aspersions. There was consideration on all fronts and the matter was resolved without any threat to literature of any kind. Whatever the outcome would have been, no code of morality was ever in question, least of all the playwright’s.

Hopefully people who are actively in charge will not be daunted and translators and teachers will still be able to get on with their jobs without having to look over their shoulders for doing so. Misunderstandings may occur, challenges may continue to present themselves but sweeping all that does not conform to an individual’s moral codes under the carpet is not the answer.
Finally, we can but hope that anyone stumbling across Arabian Nights or Snowdrop for that matter copes with having to sneak it out of the library, providing they are tall enough to reach the top shelves!
Issue 2 July 2011
أميرة نويرة 

*Video link submitted by Amira Nowaira
*Egyptian playground game counterpart submitted by Nadia and Sh.elS 

1 comment:

Belle said...

Spot on!! It comes across as a very clear and balanced response. It would be good if other teachers joined the debate.