Kuwait defends banning books at annual fair
Says books abused religious figures or were pornographic
Kuwait's information ministry on Tuesday dismissed criticism from liberal MPs for banning books from a fair due next month while Islamists praised the move.
The ministry said in a statement that its censorship committee has banned only 25 titles out of 24,000 books for abusing God, prophets and other religious figures, books on pornography and others undermining Kuwait.
It provided no other details on the books or the authors banned from displaying their works at the book fair which will run from October 13 to 23.
Liberal MPs and civil society groups charged that the government was attempting to stifle freedom of speech and thought.
"Barring books from the Kuwait book fair is a breach of the constitution," which does not apply restrictions on the freedom of speech, liberal MP Saleh al-Mulla said in a statement.
Liberal MP Aseel al-Awadhi has urged Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah al-Sabah to explain what were the parameters used by the censorship committee to ban books from the fair.
But Islamist MPs praised the measure saying it is obligatory for the information ministry to ban books that abuse God and other religious figures.
Salafi Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabai warned the information ministry of accountability if it fails to ban abusive books.
"Banning books that abuse God, prophets and Kuwait is mandatory for the government and it will be held accountable if it fails to do so," Tabtabai said in a statement.
The ministry's statement came as several Kuwaiti and Egyptian newspapers carried reports in recent days saying that works by prominent Egyptian authors have been banned from the Kuwait book fair.
Among those banned were books by Alaa al-Aswany, author of the acclaimed novel "The Yacoubian Building" which has been translated into several languages and made into a film.
Books by author Gamal al-Gitani, regarded as the best student of the late Naguib Mahfouz, who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, have also been banned.
Banning books that abuse God, prophets and Kuwait is mandatory for the government and it will be held accountable if it fails to do so
Salafi Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabai
“Some book are always banned”
Egyptian publisher Fatima al-Bodi, however, dismissed Kuwait's ban as a routine act.
"Some books are always banned from participating in the book fair and this is not the first time," Bodi told AFP.
"I see the attempt of some to link this ban to the position taken by (organizers of) Algeria's book fair as wrong," she said.
Several Algerian writers and intellectuals signed a petition last month denouncing organizers of Algeria's international book fair for banning books from Egypt in a dispute over football.
Bad feeling has lingered between Algeria and Egypt after their national teams clashed last year in 2010 World Cup football qualifying matches that triggered off-field violence.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak paid a "friendly" visit to Algiers on June 4 in an effort to solve the dispute.
Some books are always banned from participating in the book fair and this is not the first time