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Feminist’s book is recalled by its publisher for ‘offending religion’

ICC NOTE: For being such a “progressive” Islamic country, the Egyptian government shuts down a lot of writers who don’t always agree with the official religion, especially recently, with the imprisonment of Nabil (blogger), or with this case of a woman whose books were recalled at a book fair.

By Ramadan Al Sherbini

2/07/2007 (Gulf News) Cairo : In a rare case in Egypt a publisher has recalled copies of a book written by a controversial feminist after discovering it “offends religion.”

“We decided to remove the book, titled God Resigns in the Summit Meeting by writer Nawal Al Saadawi, from the shelves once we learnt it offends religion,” said Mahmoud Madbouli, who runs a publishing house in Cairo .

He denied the withdrawal had been carried out upon orders from authorities. “We would not allow such literature onto our shelves,” he told Gulf News.

Madbouli, who has already published a dozen books penned by Saadawi, said apologetically: “We do not normally read all the books we publish. But on learning that Saadawi’s book, which takes the form of a play, offended readers’ religious sensitivities, we decided to withdraw it.”

Saadawi, a medical physician by profession, is no stranger to controversy. Last year, she provoked a stir in Egypt when she espoused a suggestion by her daughter, journalist Mona Helmi, that children be named after their mothers, not fathers. Many books by Saadawi, 78, have been banned by authorities in Egypt and other Arab countries.

“My publisher has informed me that my book was not circulated at the Cairo Book Fair [a major event which ended on February 4],” Saadawi told this paper.

“My book contains nothing offensive to religion. This confiscation is a violation of the reader’s right to choose and judge the worth of a book for themselves. These people want to stifle our imagination. If my ideas are questioned and suspected, they should be debated, not suppressed. A work of art should be judged by the critics, not religious clerics or government bureaucrats.”

God Resigns in the Summit Meeting looks into current socio-economic and religious issues in Egypt , according to Saadawi.

“I feel worried about the future of Egypt whose young people are denied a real chance to be educated and exercise their minds. Confiscation provides a breeding ground for extremism,” she said.

Saadawi set up the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association in 1981, the first legal, independent feminist organisation in Egypt . The same year she was put in jail, together with scores of opponents to then President Anwar Al Sadat. She was released after his assassination.

Saadawi had her name on the death lists of terror groups in the 1990s when they mounted a bloody campaign against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.