Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for November 1st, 2009

The Egyptians’ Fear of Swine Flu

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st November, 2009

Swine flu EgyptA fourth Egyptian has died from swine flu (H1N1 virus): a tragedy for the person’s family, of course, to whom one can only extend sympathy. But it hardly adds up to an epidemic. Death tolls are far higher in parts of Asia, Europe and the Americas. So why the sense of panic and all the media hype in Cairo? School trips have been cancelled, some schools are only open three days a week, university students are missing classes (well, it provides a good excuse for them, I suppose) and in the Metro at rush hour you can see men pushing handkerchiefs to their faces to keep out the germs. The minority of Egyptian women who wear the niqab (full veil) must feel very smug. Alas, there is a tragico-comic side to the swine flu scare in Egypt, too. When the disease was first publicised, some Muslim activists went on a rampage and killed any pigs they could find, pigs being the preserve of Coptics Christians. The Copts say this is all part and parcel of the discrimination that they face on a daily basis. Whatever the truth of that, it certainly gave some Muslims the chance to rid their neighbourhoods of ‘unclean’ animals.

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