Checking out the Cairo action

hunkercairo10This is one of those cases where I simply want to point out a story and urge GetReligion readers to check it out.

In this world of newsroom downsizing, it is even more important than ever to note when the mainstream press does solid work on tough stories. This is one of those times.

I testified at a congressional hearing this week that focused on religious liberty around the world. My remarks were about press coverage of these issues — or the lack thereof. The bottom line: If the MSM has trouble getting religion, and American readers have little desire to get foreign news, then one of the hardest jobs facing journalists is doing a professional job of covering complex, controversial and expensive religion stories on the other side of the planet.

But how can you not want to read this story? The headline: “Last Call at the Hyatt — As the Luxury Cairo Hotel Stops Serving Alcohol, Another Saudi-Owned Spot Keeps the Drinks Coming.” Here is the top of the story by Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post Foreign Service:

CAIRO – Diners in the revolving restaurant on the 41st floor of Cairo’s Grand Hyatt once could count on a certain order to things: As surely as the torpid Nile coursed below and the Pyramids loomed in the distance, the whiskey, beer and wine flowed for hotel guests.

Then a Saudi sheik bought the Grand Hyatt, one of the city’s leading luxury hotels. On visiting his new holding in April, Abdel Aziz Ibrahim declared the hotel dry and ordered managers to destroy its alcohol. Hotel workers poured out the bottles into drains running into the Nile, according to news reports at the time.

Ibrahim’s imposition of prohibition reflects the disdain that some Muslims maintain for what they see as the libertine ways of Cairo. His action has sparked a five-star tussle with the Hyatt chain, which wants to restore liquor to the hotel, and has revived a debate over tolerance in Egypt.

Wait, there’s more. A whole lot more. I mean, the very next paragraph offers this bizarre twist and drops the ultimate hot name in this context:

Amid the wrangling, the Hyatt’s thirsty have found refuge a few steps away in a dark bar that is also under Saudi ownership. Hassan bin Laden, half brother of Osama, is a prominent shareholder of the Hard Rock Cafe in the Grand Hyatt complex.

By all means, read on. A host of issues linked to night life, globalization, sex and other hot-button issues cruise by and the religion ghost is, well, not a ghost. Bravo.

Still, I would be interested in hearing from Muslim readers. Are the basic facts here? Are readers told what they need to know to understand the conflicts described in this report?

Photo: From the Hard Rock Cafe in Cairo.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.manrilla.net/blog/ Marc

    I would be interested in hearing from Muslim readers. Are the basic facts here? Are readers told what they need to know to understand the conflicts described in this report?

    What do you mean by understanding the facts? That alcohol is prohibited in Islam? Yes. That is it prohibited to sell it as well? Yes. But what is it you wish to understand further? One cannot simply take an a priori stance to the relationship people in America have with alcohol, where it’s part of the social norm, to a Muslim-majority country. What relates here does not relate over there, verbatim, and vice versa. You may need to clarify what it is you are trying to discern.


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