The cradle of multiculturalism

29/03/2008



I sense that some explanation is due, so I'll try to do my best.

Some of you may be aware of the 'Fitna' polemic raging in the Low Countries. I would like to state for the record that I do NOT condone any of Mr Wilders ideas. What this whole polemic and this movie pressed home to me, was that there is a general lack of respect for ideas, lifestyles, opinions and above all, freedom of expression in a certain part of society. Something I take grave issue with.

I use the clip of gorgeous Italian artist Dalida, singing 'Helwa ya Balady', to drive home my point.

Dalida, like my father, was born in Egypt and lived in Cairo for much of her early life. She left in 1954 to pursue her career as a diva/songstress and in time would be elevated to the status of gay icon (before Madonna even hit the scene). My father, like many other foreigners, was kicked out of Egypt in 1956 when Nasser came to power, with two suitcases and a few piasters in his pocket.

What most of this diasporah shares, is their love for their 'native' country. My father raved about Egypt until his last day on earth. The sun had bored into his skin, as was evident, when I visited his body in the morgue and realised that even in death, the sun's life never had left him. The song 'Helwa ya Balady' (my sweet country) was a fixture of Dalida's repertoire until her death, of suicide.

When I asked my father about life in Alexandria (Claude François country) and Cairo, his eyes tended to glaze over. He would tell stories about how the rabbi from the synagogue would ply the children in the street with chocolate when he needed the necessary minyan to be present to start the service. My grandfather, an Italian Jew, lays buried in the Jewish cemetery in Alexandria. My grandmother, an Irish Catholic, was laid to rest in a Catholic cemetery in Antwerp. My three uncles, respectively a Catholic, a Jew and a Muslim, went to the French Collège des Frères and were taught by a Greek orthodox priest.

We were all raised on the principle of respect and multiculturalism. And our family has continued along these principles. A family reunion of the last three generations means up to 12 different nationalities at the table, and three different religions. I credit this spirit for my family's acceptance of my gayness, and our choice to have a child.

Finally, yesteryear's Cairenes and Alexandrians still search for and meet one another all over the world in an effort to recreate what they have lost.

So why is it that the rest of the world cannot follow our example?

1 messages:

FeroMoon said...

Lula sweetheart!

Rest assure, there are still people thinking alike. Families living alike. The only way they can do that is to endure. But not in the name of whatevva God. But because of the fact that it are bright liberal thinking people. The traveling kind.

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