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Saudi book fair under religious attack

ICC NOTE: There was actual complaints in the Saudi newspaper about the censorship of books in this particular fair, perhaps a sign of the growing discontent with the Saudi religious police.

March 2, 2007 Middle East Times RIYADH — Publishers displaying books at an international book fair in Saudi Arabia are coming under scrutiny and pressure by religious police.

Saudi Arabia ‘s semi-official Al Watan daily said Thursday the religious police tried to remove exhibited books on love and different religions at the Riyadh International Book Fair that opened Tuesday.

The paper quoted an Egyptian publisher as saying a group of young local men, accompanied by a mutawa, or government-authorized religious police enforcing Islamic law, entered his booth and asked the publisher to remove some books.

“This happened without official paperwork and without officials, as they came in and began choosing titles they wanted removed,” said the publisher, who was not identified. “The problem is, they didn’t even bother to read the inside of the books, in which one of them even defends Islam, but its title was about Christ; so they asked for their removal” from the exhibition, he added.

A Lebanese publisher also complained about intrusion by some visitors who criticized the books and demanded they be taken off the shelves.

The government last year took away some of the mutawa’s powers, but they remain recognized as religious police enforcing tough Islamic Sharia, or law, in the Islamic Arab kingdom.