Thursday, May 06, 2010

Egyptian censorship of a novel on ancient Christianity

EGYPTIAN CENSORSHIP focuses this time on a novel about ancient Christianity:
Egypt Christians want action on "insulting" novel
Yasmine Saleh
Wed May 5, 2010 12:59pm EDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Christians have called for government action against the author of a widely read novel they say insults Christianity, in an unusual case that puts freedom of expression in Muslim-majority Egypt under fresh scrutiny.

Government investigators are looking into the complaint filed by a group of Egyptian and some foreign Copts against Youssef Ziedan, a Muslim who wrote the 2008 award-winning novel Azazeel (Beelzebub).

Egyptian law prohibits insults against Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and Ziedan could be sent to jail for up to five years if prosecuted and found guilty.

"They accuse me of insulting Christianity ... It's a serious crime and this is a big shock to people, especially since the novel has been so successful," Ziedan said.

Azazeel, which won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, backed by the Booker Prize Foundation, tells the story of a 5th-century Egyptian monk who witnesses debates over doctrine between early Christians.

What next, an arrest warrant for Rachel Weisz?

I have every sympathy for the plight of Coptic Christians and the persecution they suffer in Egypt, but they are really damaging their own cause here. They should not be calling for government persecution of someone else, just because he writes a novel that offends them. To do so is to accept the twisted moral world of their own persecutors. The idea that no one should ever say anything that offends anyone else is one of the most pernicious notions circulating today. It plays into the hands of totalitarian governments of any stripe and it increasingly cripples free speech in democracies as well.

For more on the novel Azazeel/Beelzebub, see here.