Update on Kuwait Book Fair Bannings: Ministry Says It’s No Big Deal

According to the AFP, Kuwait’s information ministry said in a statement Tuesday that its censorship committee has “banned only 25 titles out of 24,000 books [at the Kuwait Book Fair] for abusing God, prophets and other religious figures, books on pornography and others undermining Kuwait.”

No big deal, that is.

The number 25 is a little surprising. After all, Sadi Awad, editor at Egypt’s Dar el Shorouk, recently told The National that the Kuwaiti government replied to Shorouk’s list of titles with a fax listing 33 of the publisher’s books that should not be sold there. These included well-known titles by Gamal el Ghitani, Muhammad Haykal, Ibrahim Aslan, Fahmi Huwaida and Alaa al Aswany.

Presumably, Dar el Shorouk is not the only publisher to be hit with a ban.

The AFP article seems in general dismissive of the bannings, and quotes Egyptian publisher Fatima al-Bodi as calling them “routine.”

However, Arabic Booker-winner Abdo Khal took the ban seriously enough to cancel his visit to the fair, The Kuwait Times ran a rather depressing look at literary censorship in the country titled “Of sense and censorship,” and several liberal Kuwaiti MPs and civil society groups charged the government with attempting to stiffle free speech and thought.

“Barring books from the Kuwait book fair is a breach of the constitution,” liberal MP Saleh al-Mulla said in a statement.

In an opinion piece in today’s Kuwait Times, staff columnist Fouad Al-Obaid rails against the current state of affairs:

We have gone from a country that encourages theater, to one that questions ministers for using school theaters! We have gone from a country that produces shows and plays that call for enlightenment to serials that portray social darkness, disguised in a cloth of hate, sectarianism, and social prejudice. We have gone from a progressive society that is open to globalization, to one further entrenched in the cloak of a veil ruled by Fatwa. Ironically, and to much amusement, it is noticed that even the clergy are not sure of what is permissible. They are not able to distinguish between rational and ludicrous norms.

The Kuwait Book Fair is set to run October 13 to 23.