It is not unusual to receive notes about books banned in Saudi Arabia. But the science fiction novel HWJN was one of the country’s top-sellers since its release late April. Ibraheem Abbas and Yasser Bahjatt’s novel — trans. Bahjatt — has also gotten tremendous word-of-mouth buzz on Twitter. Now, the book has been charged with blasphemy and devil-worshiping and is no longer being sold at major stores in the KSA:
No one wants to answer questions officially, although it was apparently last Tuesday — such is the date on the letter — that Saudi’s Hayaa (the committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue) delivered a handwritten letter to bookstores, informing them that they had to stop selling copies of HWJN.
The authors have not received any official communication; Jarir bookstores called to inform them of the situation.
The Hayaa letter has since been leaked, and many stores are no longer selling the book. Abbas has also released a statement on Twitter. Many readers are up in arms, and there is currently a support campaign for the author at #كلنا_ابراهيم_عباس. According to Twitter users, there are still smaller stores selling copies of the novel and many stores are still selling the English translation.
Abbas and Bahjatt, in addition to being authors of a wildly popular novel, are also the co-founders of Yatakhayaloon (The League of Arabic SciFiers), a group that brings together fans and creators of Arabic science fiction. According to organizers, “Its main objective is to encourage the Arabic SciFi culture and enrich its content empowering it to become globally competitive.” Bahjatt attended the World Science Fiction Convention this August in San Antonio, appearing on panels and selling copies of the English edition.