The Riyadh international book fair: a marvelous selection of Qur’ans and books extolling Islam! This is about all we are going to have left in Western book fairs as well, once the self-censoring Leftists who would rather have their right hand cut off than say or do anything offensive to Islam have done their work. Sharia blasphemy laws are already obeyed by many in the West as a matter of course: it is simply understood that something that offends Muslims, however spuriously, is out of bounds. Hence Katy Perry immediately revises her video containing a fleeting image of someone wearing an “Allah” pendant after Muslims complain, and publications don’t dare reprint the Muhammad cartoons even in stories about Muslim rage and violence over those cartoons. Freedom of speech and expression? Pah! That is so twentieth-century.
“Saudi book fair bans ‘blasphemous’ Mahmoud Darwish works after protest,” by Alison Flood for the Guardian, March 14:
The removal of works by the esteemed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish from a major book fair in Saudi Arabia for reportedly containing “blasphemous passages” has drawn widespread condemnation, with English PEN calling the ban an attempt “to censor one of the Islamic world’s most important modern poets”.
The Riyadh international book fair, which closes tomorrow, has already come under fire for destroying the stall of the Arab Network for Research and Publishing, a press which focuses on books about Saudi Arabia and political Islam. “The site appeared like it was hit by a rocket,” co-founder Nawaf Al Qudaimi – who tweeted a picture of the destruction – told the Wall Street Journal.
According to the daily Makkah newspaper, the event’s organiser the Ministry of Culture and Information said the books “violated the kingdom’s laws”.
Now a range of books by Darwish, the late Palestinian poet whose poems are taught in schools throughout the Arab world and who is seen as one of the most important poets in the Arabic language, have been pulled from the fair, one of his publishers confirmed to the Guardian. The removal was “amid allegations that they contain blasphemous passages”, according to Gulf News, and followed complaints from the “religious police” about the contents of the books. The local paper said that “a verbal confrontation broke out between youths and a stall owner, leading large crowds to gather around” and that security officials then “took control of the situation, dispersed the crowds and referred all those who had gathered to the fair’s security committee”. Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran tweeted a link to a video “said to show conservatives protesting against Darwish’s books in Riyadh book fair”.
Publishers were unwilling to speak on the record about the books’ ban from the fair, because “if you antagonise the authorities you will be banned from selling books in the country”, one told the Guardian.
But the writers’ group English PEN issued a stinging rebuttal to the move. “It is bizarre and disappointing that the government of Saudi Arabia has allowed a small group of people to censor one of the Islamic world’s most important modern poets. The Riyadh international book fair is supposed to promote culture and commerce in Saudi Arabia, but this incident has had precisely the opposite effect,” its said head of campaigns, Robert Sharp. He also pointed to the case of newspaper columnist Hamza Kashgari, who was imprisoned without trial in Saudi Arabia for two years after he posted a short series of tweets in which he imagined a dialogue with the Prophet Muhammad.
“Blasphemy laws stunt cultural development,” said Sharp. “If the government truly wishes Islamic art and culture to flourish in the Kingdom, it must urgently repeal these outdated laws.”
Sharp is a hypocrite. When my book The Truth About Muhammad was banned in Pakistan, I contacted PEN, and they expressed interest, but after that initial email, I never heard from them again, and of course they did nothing. PEN only cares if politically correct books are banned.
RIYADH — Riyadh Book Fair organizing committee has banned Dubai-based Madark Publishing House from selling a book on women driving. “When will the Saudi woman drive a car?” by Abdullah Al-Alami has been banned for the second time since it was published. The writer received threats over the phone and on social media from opponents of women driving when he published the book the first time. The majority of women support him and the book, he said.