The London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat newspaper reported on May 30 that an Egyptian parliamentary member by the name of Hamdi Hassan had demanded an immediate investigation into the Spring visit of First Lady Laura Bush to a primary school in Alexandria, Egypt. The befuddled parlamentarian offered that the Education Department, in preparing for visit for the First Lady, replaced the entire administration and student body of the school in order to present a better face to the visiting librarian-turned-dignitary.

    In his official investigation request, Hassan wrote that the department had “ordered the teachers and students to stay home, and prepared alternatives for them. The Department ordered the administrators and teachers of another distinguished school to be prepared and brought them to Um-Al-Qura school to perform the show.” He continued, “this trick was not noticed by Mrs. Laura and her intelligence bodies. But what would have been the case had she found out?” He added, “It seems that the appearance of the school’s original administrators and students would not have been appreciated by the US First Lady, as she would have seen poor faces obviously suffering malnutrition. Thus, Egyptian officials wanted her to see instead administrators and children who looked better to prove that they have benefited from the traces of the generous US aid aimed at developing schools and the education system.”

    Egypt marked the tail end of the First Lady’s Middle East tour.


    Visiting Iran’s holiest pilgrimage site just became easier, care of a new website that gets you there in virtual fashion. Log on to and you too can be a pilgrim without the crowds, the worrisome cafeteria food and all of that needless weeping. With a simple click, devoted Shias from Najaf to North Carolina can recreate the high that comes from entering the tomb of Imam Reza in the northeastern city of Mashaad — and all from the comfort of their home, office or nearest internet cafe. Says the supervisor of the site: “It is for those impatient Shias who want to feel permanently connected to the eighth Imam.”


    French intellectuals, historians and Arab communities came out in force in April to protest against a new law requiring school history teachers to focus on the “positive aspects” of French colonialism. As reported by the Guardian, the Law of February 23, 2005, as it is known, was intended to recognize the contribution of the “harkis:” Algerians who fought alongside France’s colonial troops in their country’s war of independence, before being abandoned to a grizzly fate when the French withdrew. MPs with close ties to Algerians who settled in France slipped through an amendment to the bill one Friday afternoon, which went unnoticed for some weeks; it reads: “School courses should recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in north Africa.” By this, we can assume they mean more than Algiers’s bonne patisseries.

    More than a thousand intellectuals signed a petition, attempting to get the law repealed, but they are yet to have a motion tabled in Parliament. Claude Liauzu, a colonial history professor at the University of Paris VII, told Bidoun, “It’s impossible for the government to apply the law — the opposition is very strong, and a lot of teachers have decided that they will not respect this loi scélérate (nefarious law).” Of course, for many of the secularist filmmakers, academics and others that joined the campaign, it’s the precedent being set by the government wading into the muddy, subjective waters of history that’s particularly disturbing. While it’s too early to get an idea of the law’s impact on textbooks or the classroom, for any Le Pen groupies, the sanction remains gold dust.