Big-Money Sheikh Zayed Award Stripped Over Allegations of Plagiarism

Yesterday, Sheikh Zayed Award organizers announced that Algerian scholar Dr. Hafnaouoi Ba’li—who’d been awarded the 2010 Sheikh Zayed literature prize for his Comparative Cultural Criticism—had been stripped of the award.

The National reports that award organizers are trying to get back their 750,000 dirhams.

The allegation, according to Gulf News, was that Ba’li had failed to reference all the information he used from one writer, crediting the author in some cases but not others. The publisher, Bassam Shbaro of Beirut’s Arab Scientific Publishers, told the Gulf News he was surprised by the stripping, as he’d thought the incident had been resolved.

To make matters yet more confusing: The copied passages came from Cultural Criticism: A Look at Arab Cultural Patterns by the Saudi author Dr Abdullah al Ghathami, who was himself one of the 2010 judging panel. He apparently recused himself from discussions of the matter.

The Sheikh Zayed award for “literature”—a somewhat confusing category—some years goes to a work of fiction (Gamal al-Ghitani won in 2009 for his Dafater Al-Tadween) and other years to a work of criticism. (Yes, yes, I understand this is a “teachable moment” in terms of scholarly citation, but this year’s fracas seems like as good a reason as any to make it a purely fictional award.)

The news was buzz around the edges of the Sharjah International Book Fair—hello from Sharjah!—where yesterday Egypt’s Dar El Shorouk won the 1 million AED Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature for Walid Taher’s El Noqta El Sooda. And that, I can promise you, was a well-spent and well-deserved 1 million.

I’m having terrible connectivity problems here in Sharjah. Don’t know how much I’ll be able to update before I get back.


  1. By the way, you would be pleased to know there was an ad for the UAE prize two nights ago on local Qatari radio . . . I think. I was not paying attention, and then heard an ad talking about a million dirham literary prize. Not too many of those around here. Haha.

  2. I *am* pleased. Now. You must go to the store and get a copy of el-noqta el-sooda for some nice deserving young Qatari you know. And another for yourself. Meshi?

Comments are closed.