Egypt to ‘Purge and Confiscate’ at Mosque Libraries

Egyptian authorities made statements Monday and Tuesday, saying that they are planning to remove books that “incite extremism” from mosques:

To be banned?

To be banned?

The Ministry of Religious Endowments said, in a Monday statement, that it plans to remove all books that incite extremism from mosque libraries.

Also, no new books can be added to mosque libraries without approval from the ministry.

Egypt’s Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa said in the Monday statement that mosques must provide a list of their library’s contents for inspection.

Anadolu Agency further reported that “Egyptian Ministry Undersecretary Gaber Tayee said ministry officials have been instructed to check all books in mosque libraries to make sure ‘they fit with Islam’s tolerance.'”

Government officials denied that they were planning to burn books, the Cairo Post reported. The books would instead be removed from libraries and warehoused.

Ashraf Fahmy, an official in the ministry, told Daily News Egypt that this new policy means the government will go from mosque library to mosque library “in order to purge them of books that call for fundamentalism and extremism, and call for the opposite of moderate Islam.”

After that, Fahmy told DNE, “a committee will examine the books in every city to evaluate and remove them.” He said that any book found transgressing these vague guidelines “irrespective of its author or publishing house, that contradicts the teachings of Islam, will be confiscated.”

The Anadolu Agency report said that authorities had suggested they’d be looking for particular books, including texts by former Brotherhood leader Sayyid Qutb and television personality and scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, also associated with the MB.

Qutb’s memoir, A Child from the Villagehas been translated to English and published by AUC Press, although it’s out of print in Arabic.

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Categories: Egypt

4 replies

  1. I feel I don’t quite understand the social context of this one. If Christian churches here in Canada were told to remove books from their libraries, while school and public libraries remained well-stocked and secular, I wouldn’t care at all. I don’t think it would affect very many people’s reading habits…

    Or is the issue that the Ministry of Religious Endowments is attempting control Islam in Egypt and not allow dissenting views? Are they trying to ban books that incite extremism because they’re trying to curb violent, fundamental sects that cause issues for all Muslims?

    I’m generally for literary freedom, but I’m not seeing much of an issue here.

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    • Alixandra,

      I can’t say about Canada, but if US churches were told they had to submit their lists of library books to the government for approval & they could only represent a certain sort of Christianity, that would be seen by certain sectors as an infringement of free access to books & by others as the government telling them how to run their business.

      There are a number of questions — key among them is “what is Islam” and who gets to define Islam. Another is: Who gets to decide what books we read, whether in a mosque library, a school library, or a public library. If there is a list of approved texts, who makes that list? And while they say “mosque libraries,” surely the same restrictions will apply elsewhere — for instance a public library in Hurghada already removed 30-odd books it considered too Brotherhoody.

      And no, there are very few well-stocked public or school libraries (except expensive private schools).

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