Egypt’s Minister of Education Moheb El-Rafei has condemned officials within his own Ministry and the Interior Ministry for carrying out the burning of banned schools in the court yard of a school.
Burning books sends the wrong message, “even if violence and radicalism or ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood are promoted,” said the Minister according to Al-Ahram.
Dozens of books, allegedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, were burned on April 6 by Interior Ministry officials in the presence of Education Ministry officials at the Fadl Modern School in Giza. The burning took place as Egypt’s national anthem played on the loudspeakers of the school and children watched.
The Minister of Education’s statements said that those involved in the burning would be investigated and possibly stand trial.
Despite the condemnation and the threat of prosecution, Al-Ahram has revealed that the Director of the Office of the Minister of Education had informed others in the Ministry of the time and date of the burning prior to it happening.
This was corroborated in a statement released by the the Ministry of Education condoning the burning of the books as necessary to fight the “incitement of terrorism, sectarianism and more.” The statement read that the burning was necessary as to avoid these books from falling into the hands of young students.
According to Al-Ahram, the statement was written by the Director of the Minister’s office Bothaina Keshk, who Al-Ahram says had told senior officials in the Ministry of the burning prior to its incidence.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Bothaina, who the Minister of Education has threatened with an investigation, confirmed her views.
“This is only the beginning,” said Bothaina to Bloomberg.
“Those books inflame hatred and violence and poison the brains of our children. We need to make sure they aren’t exposed to brainwashing by the Muslim Brotherhood and are raised on the principles of true moderate Islam.”
Al-Ahram, citing sources in the Ministry, alleges that Bothaina had informed the Director of the Office of the Minister’s Affairs Hossam Abou El-Magd that she would burn the books. Abou El-Magd, Ahram alleges, approved Bothaina’s request without informing the Minister of the incident, despite it being his duty to do so.
Egypt’s prosecutor-general has not yet commented on whether the prosecution has commenced an investigation into the burning of the books, as per the Minister of Education’s request.
While the exact circumstances leading to the burning of the books remains unclear, it is evident however that the public has reacted negatively to the burning. On social media, everyday Egyptians and analysts have criticized the move.
On television, ONTV host Youssef El-Hosseiny said that those behind the burning were merely seeking to create a show for the media and to boost their popularity.
On her Twitter account Nervana Mahmoud tweeted “Burning books is disgracefully medieval. You should have the intellectual capacity to counter ideas.”
Amira El Feky, meanwhile, tweeted a quote from Heinrich Heine that states “Them that begin by burning books, end by burning people.”