It’s My Jihad in an Islamic context. “Massive Cairo book fair sets religious tone,” by Alain Navarro for AFP, with thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist:
CAIRO (AFP) – At the Cairo Book Fair, the largest and most important event of its kind in the Arab world, religious works dominate, while literature and scientific texts are often pushed to the margins.
Millions of Cairenes have been thronging to the fair giving it an air of carnival on the vast exhibition grounds covering 80,000 square meters (861,000 square feet) in northern Cairo and featuring some 1,400 stands of books and CDs.
By Sunday, when the 39th annual fair comes to a close, organisers estimate some two million people will have visited, dwarfing similar events in Beirut, Casablanca and Abu Dhabi — though many complain that the crowds are just there to picnic and buy religious books….
Of the 700 Egyptian and Arab publishers at the fair, the vast majority stock religious books on their shelves. “Even we reserve about a quarter of our catalog for them,” said publisher Ansari.
Korans of all styles, from the simple to the leather-bound, share shelf space with collections of religious sayings and fatwas as well as their more modern incarnations on cassettes and compact disks.
The collected works of late venerable preachers like Egypt’s Sheikh Mohammed Shaarawi and Saudi Arabia’s Abdel Aziz bin Baz were present as well, though there was stiff competition from the young “new look” television preachers like Amr Khaled.
“It’s become a real business, but this fundamentalism comes from Saudi Arabia and stays with the cynical encouragement of the powers that be,” said best-selling Egyptian author Aswani whose social satire the “Yacoubian Building” has achieved fame far beyond Egypt’s borders….
The fair also has its darker sides, with anti-Christian polemics advocating conversion to Islam as the only solution to a flawed religion and of course plenty of editions of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” for sale.
“It makes up a big part of our success, especially among the 18 to 25 crowd,” said Mahmud Abdallah of the Syrian-Egyptian Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi publishing house.
“Allowing the sale of books like ‘Mein Kampf’ is a total scandal,” said Mohammed Arkoun, professor emeritus of Islamic history at the Sorbonne, for whom the Arab cultural production, at least as seen through the lens of the Cairo Book Fair, “reflects above all, a certain emptiness.”
And worse than emptiness.