Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Pakistani Review on Musharraf's book

" 'Political speech and writing,' says George Orwell is largely the 'defence of the indefensible.' So if the literary genius read General Pervez Musharraf's memoir, In The Line of Fire, What would he say? Though most of the world knows George Orwell for his book, Animal Farm, I remember him for the essay called, Politics and The English Language. It is his classic work on all political writing to date. Orwell deconstructs bad writing by politicians and fascists alike with ease, but I feel that he would be in quiet a fix with Musharraf's book, and wouldn't know what to make of it really.

"[...] Now that I have read Musharraf's Memoir, I wondered if I should go back to Orwell, or shall I put a value on the popularity that this head of state of a developing country has on, say, the Jon Stewart show. Pakistan is headed by a military dictator who can neither be dictator enough to do away with the extra-constitutional Hudood laws, nor benevolent enough to resign as army chief and stand for elections. Flip-flopping between appeasing the mullahs and the west, he plays to the theatre by walking the much acclaimed tightrope of a moderate Muslim country's leader, all on Pakistan's expense. Orwell asked readers of political literature to notice how the word 'democracy' is used in a 'consciously dishonest way' and notice that when we say that a country is democratic 'we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning.'

"When I bought the memoir, angry, I thought I was ready to unleash Orwell onto it. I thought I could circle a few embarrassing quotes from Musharraf that have 'private definitions but allow his hearer to think he means something quite different.' [...]

"I thought I could point to the images of a decapitated bomber who tried to assassinate him and say that it was in bad taste, that he was using an image of war to define urgency which reflected the decay of his political thought. I wanted him to stop condemning earlier politicians for what they did and begin by undoing their wrong if he cared enough. It wasn't that simple though, I noticed that Pervez Musharraf steers clear from George Orwell's most cautioned malaise -- lack of clarity.

"[...] Musharraf labels rot as rot, and if his story is to be believed he never would be a dictator, nor does he support the interference of the military into politics, as he explains at length, for the right reasons too. Any witness to the history that maps his last 10 years has reason to substantiate the circumstances that led to his rise as army chief and supreme leader of Pakistan. [...]

"Refreshingly though, the book isn't written for the American, as much as it resonates with the nationalist Pakistani with the Jinnahist ethic -- the secular democratic Pakistan that is successfully liberal because of its culturally Islamic background rather than despite it. Despite the clarity with which Musharraf approaches the book, he cannot be pardoned for the mistakes he's made in real governance. One only wishes he walked his text. Musharraf, as a young boy, escaping the violence of the Hindu mobs before Pakistan was created, says he cried on the day Pakistan's founder, Barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah died. A claim no one can testify to, but the nobility of which is not lost, for it to deserve mention in this world best-seller. Yet, I find that Musharraf's understanding of the political history of Pakistan's creation is a bit shallow. [...]"

Source: The News (Pakistan), October 20, 2006

Bhutto's new book

"Immediately after receiving the manuscript of Benazir Bhutto’s new book, leading publisher HarperCollins decided to move quickly to get it on the shelves by February, following [...] assassination of the former prime minister. The book, entitled 'Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West,' was part political treatise and part memoir of the first woman elected prime minister of a Muslim nation.

"HarperCollins had signed up the book for an advance estimated to be around $75,000 shortly before she returned to Pakistan in October after years of living in exile.'We have a finished manuscript,' said HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, who learned about Ms Bhutto’s murder from an email alert. When HarperCollins Executive Editor Tim Duggan sealed the deal with Ms Bhutto, he said: 'Pakistan is an increasingly volatile place, and Ms Bhutto’s book is an eye-opening look at the mistakes we’ve made in the region and what we can do to correct them -- as well as what the consequences will be if we don’t.' "

Source: Dawn (Pakistan), December 29, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Arabic speakers, a dying breed in the Arab world?"

"Arabic is the fifth-most spoken language worldwide, with 206 million native Arabic speakers in the world and more than 20 million people speaking it as a second language. But many Arabs feel that globalization has affected their native tongue negatively.

"Arabic, especially classical Arabic, or fus'ha, is a fading tongue between its native speakers, or at least it is becoming less important than it once used to be. Classical Arabic, though the language of the Holy Quran and used in books and formalletters, is now left to the sophisticates. Ali, a 22 year old Kuwaiti, thinks the reason behind the declining standard of Arabic learning is that people associate other languages such as English with better education and career prospects. [...]

"Ali, who is a graduate from a bilingual school and currently studying English literature at Kuwait University (KU) is an example for many other young Kuwaitis and Arabs who would forego their native tongue for a more global language. Though Ali talks Arabic well with a Kuwaiti dialect, he admits that he prefers to speak English among his peers. At home, we usually talk Arabic together, but my sisters send me emails and text messages in English rather than Arabic. And I talk with my friends most of the time in English, he said. [...]"

"Arabs talk in different dialect depending on their region and country. Certain dialects are more difficult to understand than others. For example, Egyptian Arabic is considered the easiest dialect to understand because of the flooding of Egyptian movies and songs, while Algerian dialect is usually considered the most difficult and complicated because of the inclusion of French. That's why classical or literary Arabic is the unifying platform for all Arabs, regardless where they come from, to communicate without misunderstanding. But many Arabic native speakers cannot speak fluent Arabic, in their own dialect, and don't read or write well in classical Arabic. Poor education and fast-moving technologies are some of the reasons behind the declining interest in learning Arabic.

"The English language is becoming the competing language to Arabic now. There is a decline in learning Arabic in public schools now especially in grammar and dictation. There is no love to the language and there is nothing interesting in the curriculums for students anymore, said Abu Mohammad, a Syrian Arabic teacher in a public school in Kuwait.He sees the reason behind this decline or lack of interest in learning Arabic is a shared responsibility between the parents, teachers and the students themselves. 'There is a negligence from the students' side and no cooperation between the teachers and the parents; the parents don't bother to come to schools and check on how their kids are doing, and some teachers' qualifications are minimal so they don't care if their students didn't do well,' he said. [...]"

Source: Kuwait Time (Kuwait), December 27, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mohammed Choukri: The Moroccan Bukowski

"Mohamed Choukri is one of North Africa's most controversial and widely read authors. The distinguished writer Paul Bowles, perhaps best known for his novel The Sheltering Sky, worked closely with Choukri on the translation of For Bread Alone, and penned the introduction.

"For Bread Alone is autobiographical. After a childhood of poverty and petty crime, Choukri learned how to read and write at the age of twenty, after a bout in prison. He then became a teacher and writer, finally being awarded the chair of Arabic Literature at Ibn Batuta College in Tangier. Choukri died of cancer in 2003 at the age of sixty-four. His life is now captured in a film where Choukri himself makes a brief appearance.

"The book itself was banned in Arab countries for its sexual explicitness. Dar al-Saqi was the first publishing house to publish it in Arabic in 1982, thirty years after it was written, though many translations came out before the Arabic version. [...]"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Beirut book fair salutes freedom of speech"

"The 51st Beirut International Arab Book Festival opened at the BIEL (Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure) conference center on Thursday afternoon after an opening address delivered from the Grand Serail by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. [...]"
Source: Daily Star (Lebanon), December 25, 2007

Two Egyptians arrested at Sudan book fair

"Two Egyptians have been arrested in Sudan for their participation at the Sudan book fair, the PANA quoted the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) as reporting.

"The organization said Abdul Fattah Al Sadany, 30, and Mahrous Mohamed Abdel Az im, also 30, were arrested on charges of 'abuse of Islam' for the book 'Aisha: The Wife of Prophet Mohamed.'

"[...] The two men, from the Madbouly Publishing House in Egypt, were promoting a book that criticizes Aisha at the international book fair in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The book sparked interest of the Sudanese Minister of Justice, who said it promotes ideas 'harmful to the islamic religion'.

"The minister said the defendants were selling a book called 'A mother that ate up her children' and that includes phrases criticizing the Prophet. The book was confiscated at the book fair.
"The Egyptians will be tried under article 125 of the Sudanese penal code for ins ulting religious beliefs and inciting hatred and contempt for religions. They could face up to six months in jail and 40 strokes of the cane if convicted. [...]

"Among the books confiscated at the exhibition were two books about the Shiites , a book called 'Darfur, the history of war and genocide,' published by the Horizons House for publication and distribution."

Source: Panapress, December 17, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sana'a: Two million people and only two libraries

"With a population of two million, the capital city’s only two public libraries are insufficient for education and gaining knowledge.
"When librarians classify books without a computerized system, many errors occur because everything is done the old way, which is writing by hand the book title, who borrowed it, etc., and then having to search through such handwritten record books, which is awkward and time-consuming. Due to such an archaic system, one anonymous individual points out that, 'If any book is lost, librarians usually should take responsibility and pay for it, but because there’s no strict rule to control this, officials don’t say a word and nothing is done about it.' [...]"
Source: Yemen Times (Yemen), December 19, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tintin thrives in the Arab world despite censorship

"Neither censors nor 'Orientalist' stereotypes have dampened demand for the cartoon adventures of Belgian boy reporter Tintin, who has stoked the imagination of generations of Arabs from the Atlantic to the Gulf.

"Created in the middle years of the 20th century, Tintin spent more time in the Arab world than anywhere else, in four books: 'Cigars of the Pharaoh,' 'The Crab with the Golden Claws,' 'Land of Black Gold' and 'The Red Sea Sharks.'

'It's extraordinary that Tintin came here so many times and still has so many friends,' according to Tunisian academic Issam Marzouki.

Opium smuggling, the scramble for Middle Eastern oil, the slave trade and more were all sources of adventure and -- to this day -- controversial storylines for Tintin's Belgian creator, the illustrator Herge. [...]

"But the end of the relationship a year ago between Belgian publishing giant Casterman and Egyptian publisher Dar al-Maaref, which had the right to print Tintin in Arabic for 30 years, means the daring reporter with the trademark quiff is no longer available in Arabic. [...]

Dar al-Maaref declined to comment on the end of the relationship.

Nevertheless, in this centenary year of Herge's birth, the Arab world still reads Tintin in English and French, apparently ignoring the charges of racism and colonialism levelled at the books in Europe and Africa.

"Cliches and stereotypes, sure, but nothing harmful, and Herge refined his view of the Arabs throughout the series... as well as his use of written and spoken Arabic," said Marzouki. "But the adventure is the most important thing."

Source: AFP, December 17, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Look at Sudanese Literature

Fatima Ibrahim is a writer and a human right activist.

"A Muslim, a former Member of Parliament in Sudan and [former ]president of the banned Sudanese Women's Union, she has a long history as an outspoken defender of human rights in her country. Now [...] she crackles with energy as she denounces the Islamic fundamentalists whose regime, she says, has turned her homeland into a war torn, shattered nation."

A Look at Sudanese Literature

Tayyib Salih is one of the most famous Sudanese writer. He was born in the North of Sudan in 1929. He studied at the University of Khartoum, before leaving for the University of London (UK). His works generally tackles socio-political issues, such as colonization and gender. Salih is also considered one of the best short story writers working in Arabic today.

Read Tayyib Salih's short novel, A Handful of Dates:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

December 11, 2007: Terroristic attack in Algeria

Morituri by Yasmina Khadra

Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym of Mohamed Moulessehoul.

Enrolled in the army at the age of nine, he starts writing novels using his real name until the regime begins to feel displeased. Following the advice of his wife he starts using the name Yasmina Khadra, the name of his wife.
"This remarkable roman policier introduces us to the formidable and yet very human detective-writer, Superintendent Llob and his devoted lieutenant Lino. It follows Llob in his search for the missing daughter of Ghoul Malek, one of the top power brokers in Algiers. In his search, Llob must traverse the fear-filled streets of Algiers, from the dens of the drug pushers to those of the cruel and fanatical Islamic fundamentalists. The poverty and constant terror and suspicion endemic to Algiers, torn apart by civil war, is set against contrasting glimpses of the corrupt and luxurious high society. The memory of the serene and beautiful Algiers that was makes the current situation all the more heartbreaking. More than just an outstanding mystery novel, with Morituri Khadra paints an unforgettable picture of the tragedy of modern Algeria, in language of breathtaking power and poetry."
Source: Barnes and Noble

Friday, December 7, 2007

Driss Chraibi: The Moroccan Novelist

"Chraïbi is considered to be the father of the modern Moroccan novel.

"Chraïbi's works draw heavily on his own life. Central theme in his novels is the clash between different cultures, the East and the West, Arab and French. Chraïbi's range of style changes from epic to comedy. He has been among the pioneers of Maghrebian writers to explore the oppression of women and children in an Islamic, patriarchal society.

"Driss Chraïbi was bon in El Jadida. His father was a tea merchant, who perceived Western education as a means to modern Morocco. Chraïbi attended Koranic school as a young boy. When the family moved to Casablanca, Chraïbi continued his studies at the French Lycée. At age of nineteen he went to France planning study chemical engineering and neuropsychiatry. After abandoning his studies, he traveled throughout Europe and Israel.

"Chraïbi settled in France with his first wife and children, and eventually devoted himself in 1952 to literature and journalism. [...]

"As a novelist Chraïbi made his debut with Le Passé simple (The Simple Past), which was published in 1954, two years before Morocco gained its independence. The book arose much controversy because of the inflammable political situation in the North Africa.

"Chraïbi was criticized as a traitor to the Arab world and French conservatives saw that the book revealed the reason for French presence in Morocco. The protagonist in the novel is a young man, Driss, who revolts against his tyrannical Moslem father. The father banishes Driss from the home and Driss begins his wandering on the streets. Finally he returns to home only to find that his mother has committed suicide in his absence. The novel ends with Driss's departure for France. Driss is an outsider in his own country, oppressed by his family and the feudal, religious traditions.

"Chraïbi was so disturbed by critics, that he publicly rejected the novel in 1957, but later regretted his action. The book was banned in Morocco until 1977. [...]"

From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel

From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel
By Alek Wek

"Since the day she was scouted by a modeling agent while shopping at a London street fair when she was just nineteen, Alek Wek's life has been nothing short of a fantasy. [...]

"But nothing in her early years prepared her for the life of a model.

"Born in Wau, in the southern Sudan, Alek knew only a few years of peace with her family before they were caught up in a ruthless civil war that pitted outlaw militias, the Muslim-dominated government, and southern rebels against each other in a brutal conflict that killed nearly two million people. Here is her daring story of fleeing the war on foot and her escape to London, where her rise from young model to supermodel was all the more notable because of Alek's non-European looks.

"A probe into the Sudanese conflict and an inside look into the life of a most unique supermodel, Alek is a book that will inspire as well as inform."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Journalists arrested in Egypt

"RSF [Reporters Withou Borders] strongly condemns the arrest of journalist Hossam el-Hendy at Helwan University, south of Cairo, as 'an attempt to intimate all bloggers in Egypt' after officials there reported him to police for taking photos and sending messages about a demonstration on his mobile phone.

"El-Hendy, 22, who works for the daily paper "Al-Dustour" and the website Eshreen (, was covering a 28 November 2007 protest that erupted when a speaker at a university conference on information technology said it was important to regulate online activity in Egypt.

"The press freedom organisation also deplored the suspension, on 21 November, of the YouTube account of journalist and blogger Wael Abbas, [See full soty on] who had posted scenes of police brutality. His Yahoo! e-mail account was also suspended on 29 November. [...]

"Egypt is on the RSF list of "enemies of Internet freedom." One blogger, Kareem Amer, 22, is in prison for posting material online and has become a symbol of repression towards the country's bloggers [...]"
Source: Reporters Without Borders

After 11 Years, Qatari "Al-Arab" Newspaper Resumes Publication

The Qatari daily Al-Arab resumed publication on November 18, after an 11-year hiatus following the death of its founder and owner Abdallah Hussein N'ameh.
The daily will have 60 pages, and will publish a weekly supplement devoted to Persian and Turkish literature, indicating cultural openness towards Iran and Turkey.

Source: Al-Hayat, London, November 18, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Saudi woman writer Suad Jaber's book critical of Men

"The Saudi writer Suad Jaber dedicates her first novel, ‘Silence Written by Absence,’ (Samt Yaktabuhu al Ghiyab) to every woman who has endured deprivation. [...]

"Within the framework of this abnormal relation between man and woman, the game of collusion does not reveal conflict between two wills that struggle for one freedom; rather there is always the logic of the one who is capable of possessing and the one who is not.

"Man is conscious of his freedom, and he even builds it upon the wreckage of a woman's freedom. Also, in his relations with her, he does not look for natural ground that maintains the privacy of each party. He is an egoistic creature who does not regard love as an act of freedom but, from his point of view, as a mere framework for social luxury and satisfaction of the sexual urge. Therefore, when a woman fails to find love, man becomes a bitter opponent.

"Away from the boundaries of this relation, national patriotic concerns that are sometimes scattered across the narration are not expressed but rather appear as mumbles on the surface that does not live up to the level of striking conscious insofar as it is an attempt to demonstrate a sort of superficial excellence of female presence vis-à-vis male absence or weak presence until the female presence appears a certainty, whilst the latter retires to the shadow of this certainty.

"In this fashion, we encounter this cry of protest against man in a message… 'Draw the boundaries of the relationship you want…color them, shape them, write them, reject them, remove them … It does matter, because I will remain the woman who gave up her heartbeat to beat for you… I am the woman who gave the sweetest and finest of feelings. I am the woman who reached out to you, to hold you when you were overwhelmed by anxiety and boredom.'

"However, the powerful cry of the ego soon fades and becomes an elegy for the self and the other together when the spirit's resistance collapses versus physical concerns and pressures of reality. The rebellious discourse then follows another pattern, 'Today, I am not asking you to speak, but I call for your reading capability to read the pain and admonition in my eyes. Forgive me for today my words are unsure, unable to convey my meaning and my sentences are weak in expression and my lines bleed before your very eyes… I am not myself and my pen is not mine… A depressing feeling overwhelms me, and my desire for you stifles me.'

"The messages of the book proceed after this pattern. Man has no actual presence except through the narrator, i.e., the writer. He is no more than a recipient of her letter. 'All my feelings began to abandon me… My anger, my love… I do not threaten or make revolutionary statements… I do not condemn or denounce. How far I am from these emotional onslaughts and cries that evoke your loyalty… My national defeats hurt me more than my individual ones… Today I stand on the borderline between existence and non-existence… It is your own life; enjoy it your own way. Do as you like. Fill your heart with sincere love or false emotions… Heed only the voice of ego within you… For me it suffices to have lived the dream so affectionately.' [...]"

Source: Asharq Al Awsat (Saudi-owned, London-based), January 11, 2007

Book Against Corruption Released in Jordan

"Arab civil society has succeeded in promoting the transparency agenda despite legal impediments and smearing attacks, according to a book recently published by the Arab Archives Institute (AAI) in Jordan.

"The book, entitled “Against Corruption - The role of Arab Civil Society in Fighting Corruption”, analyses the activities carried out by civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Arab world with focus on Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco as representative countries of the Mashreq, Gulf and Maghreb regions.

"In the case of Jordan, the book analyses the role of CSOs in fighting corruption and their relationship with the government and the authorities in the kingdom.

"While the Jordanian government exposed an estimated two-billion-US dollar corruption cases (since the democratic process was reintroduced in Jordan in 1989 until 2007) civil society had magnificently succeeded in pushing for an anti-corruption legislation that saw the light less than a decade after initiating campaigning efforts.

"The book also shows how Arab civil society has succeeded in a short span of time to advance the issue of fighting corruption and placing it on the national, Arab and international agendas. Were it not for the NGOs, the number of corrupt people might have been double the number that is already there. [...]"

Source: Middle East Online, November 29, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jailed Islamists Revise Jihad Concept

"Egyptian Islamist Osama Ayyub, a political refugee in Germany and head of the Islamic Center in Munster, which advocates the Islamic Jihad ideology, has revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that there have been a number of attempts to carry out [ideological] revisions by Islamic Jihad leaders in Egyptian prisons.

"He said that these attempts preceded the release of 'The Rationalization of Jihad in Egypt and the World Today,' which is a book written by Dr Fadl, who is also known as Sayyid Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif. Dr Fadl is the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group and is Ayman al-Zawahiri's first mentor.

"Ayyub was born in 1966. He belongs to the Bani-Suwayf group and is the former religious head of Bayt al-Ansar in Peshawar. He described Islamic Jihad revision as 'a turning point on the road toward ideological revision, which the Islamic movement is pursuing today.'

"The revision document, which Al-Misri Al-Yawm is publishing, and of which Asharq Al-Awsat received a copy of its first part, stresses that 'the performance of jihad for the sake of God has included several Islamic Shariaa violations, foremost among which is the killing of people on the basis of nationality, color of skin and hair, and sect'.

"The document says that 'these violations lead to nothing but God's resentment and indignation.' It adds that 'when a Muslim sets a goal for himself that exceeds his ability or that does not suit his situation then it is impermissible in Islam to use any illicit means to achieve this goal even if the goal itself is legitimate'. [...]"

Source: Asharq Al -Awsat (Saudi-owned, London-based), November 26, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Calls to close Sudanese website for 'homo' blur"

"A renowned Islamist figure in Sudan has joined a campaign calling for shutting down one of the biggest Sudanese websites, following articles posted there describing Islamists of being homosexuals.

"Leader of the salafist group Ansar Al-Sunnah Al-Mohamadeya (Protectors of Prophet Muhammad's Teachings) Sheikh Abou-Zeid Mohamed dedicated his Friday sermon to condemning, dubbing it as 'insulting faith and the prophet'. The sermon came in the wake of a campaign launched 10 days ago by the Sudanese daily Akher Lahza against the most popular website among Sudanese in exile.The paper's Deputy Editor-in-Chief Al-Hindi Ezz El-Din said the website, launched from the U.S., calls God 'a big illusion'.

"Ezz El-Din launched a severe campaign against U.S.-based engineer Bakri Abou-Bakr, the website's owner who, he said, 'knows nothing about journalism'. Ezz El-Din told that he received over 2800 emails from politicians and religious figures calling for closing the website. On his membership in Sudaneseonline, Ezz EL-Din said it was given to him by Abou-Bakr, insisting that he resigned two weeks later after he had found out that the website did not tackle serious issues. Ezz El-Din alleged that some of the website's members have ties with Israel, specifying acitivist Taragi Mustafa who established the Israeli Sudanese Fellowship Association: 'This website is supported by external bodies'.

"But in a phone interview with, Abou-Bakr said that his website is the meeting point of all Sudanese regardless of their political, ethnic, or religious background.'The website's 6,000 members include the most prominent Sudanese intellectuals, writers, musicians, media people, and scientists. They are all chosen carefully and in accordance with specific criteria'.

"Abou-Bakr called for Sudanese members of parliament to check the website and 'to find out how the accusations leveled against it are false'. He also said that the member who mentioned God was fired in 2005 for that reason: 'And they only brought that up now.' Abou-Bakr added that any offensive material is removed from the website and its writer is penalized. [...]

"The website receives between 165,000 and 170,000 visitors daily. The Sudan Telecommunications Public Corporation is currently studying the possibility of shutting down the controversial website."
Source: Al Arabiya (Saudi-owned, Dubai-based), November 23, 2007

5th Conference of Islamic States Culture Ministers in Tripoli

The culture ministers of 57 countries took part in 5th Conference of Islamic States Culture Ministers in Tripoli, which was held under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The gathering opened yesterday and run until November 23.

Iran and Libya to establish mutual cultural offices

"Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad-Hossein Saffar Harandi met with his Libyan counterpart during a meeting held on the sidelines of the 5th Conference of Islamic States’ Culture Ministers in Tripoli.

"Harandi made reference to the fact that both Iran and Libya have gone through revolutions and said that this common experience could help strengthen ties between the two countries.

"Harandi also stressed the need to establish cultural offices in both countries and proposed that Persian language courses be held in Libyan universities.

"Libya’s Minister of Culture Nouri al-Hamidi expressed his pleasure over the resumption of cultural activities between the two nations. [...]"

Source: Mehrnews (Iran), November 24, 2007

[News from Iran]: 14th Press Festival in Iran

On November 19, the Iranian daily Mardom-Salari analysed the outcome of the 14th Press Festival in Iran.
Hereby, a list of the daily's analysis:
  • The number of publications is far below the standard limits, and the level of the study of publications in the country is minimal.
  • Lack of exact information regarding the time of the convocation of the Exhibition.
  • The choice of the venue of the Press Festival can be considered as another weakness of the Press Festival. The Centre for the Development of Thought in Children and Youth was not a suitable venue for the convocation of the Press Festival.
  • Government-owned news agencies occupied the best areas in the Exhibition.
  • The pavilions of the government-owned and pro-government newspapers were located in the best halls.
  • The government gave prizes to eight journalists, who were critical of the government.However, it was not clear the criterion of the government for the awarding and whether the works that had been published had been scrutinized by the President's media consultants, or whether due to the shortage of time, a few were selectively scrutinized in view of the fact that till a week prior to the convening of the closing ceremonies of the Press Festival, there had been no mention of the award of prizes in this category, at least not any official announcement to that effect.
  • On the other hand, some individuals such as Hoseyn Shari'atmadari and Kazem Anbarlu'i - who are known for their support to the government and the President in the media - had been introduced as the chosen critics of the government.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kuwaiti Education Minister Decides To Remove Islamic Books From School Libraries, Kindergartens

Kuwaiti Education Minister Nouriya Al-Sabih has decided to remove Salafist Islamic books from school libraries and kindergartens.

MPs from the Islamic bloc demanded that she repeal her decision. One, MP Faysal Al-Mesalem, said that after he spoke with Ms. Al-Sabih, she promised to return the books to the school libraries.

Source: Al-Jarida, Kuwait, November 15, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Chicago" a new Egyptian Novel

"Alaa El-Aswany's second novel, Chicago - a 450-page tome set in the histology department of the university where Aswany earned his phD in that American state many years ago - has been even better received than The Yaqoubian Building, adapted into a movie last year.

"El-Aswany's name has become synonymous with best-selling literature, indeed even beyond the Arab world - evidence of which was to be had last week at the local launch of Actes Sud's French edition of Chicago, held at the French Cultural Centre and attended by some 200 Egyptian and French readers. [...]

"[...] The structure of Chicago [...] is different, like a gallery of portraits, each one executed down to the tiniest, most interesting detail: Shaimaa and Tarek as the couple hoping to conclude their love with a happy marriage; Salah, the professor locked up in his past love for Zeinab; and Nagui, questioning his very own existence. Each portrait takes up a prominent place inside the gallery, but beyond the gallery hall, as it were, only the faintest bonds hold the portraits together; and a closer look reveals that that gallery hall is more or less synonymous with Egypt.

"Besides the Egyptian characters, there are a number of Americans humanely portrayed: Carol, a black single mother who ends up as a nude model after failing to earn enough to cover her child's expenses, is one such. [...]

"Nagui, a communist student, starts out seeing the US as the Arab world's greatest enemy, but as time goes by, he finds out that America it is less ugly than it appears from a distance - but no more attractive either.

"'The most interesting implication in this novel is its reference to the clash of civilizations, as well as many aspects of the difference between North and South.' Confirming such ideas to his audience at the Centre, Aswany seemed more excited than ever before: 'Creating the characters was the most difficult part. I used to wake up in the morning and write down the details pertaining to each character separately. For example, if I'm writing about Shaimaa (who is a based on a real person I met while studying in Chicago), I will list her age, the colour of her hair, whether or not she smokes - until I get to the point where I can see her fully embodied before my eyes. So then we I am writing, if I feel confused, I can go back and consult these fully formed creations...' [...]

"In both Yaqoubian and Chicago, explicit sex is frequent and graphic but hardly provocative and never erotic: it is either comic - as in Tarek and Shaimaa's first sexual encounter, or horrific, as in the sexual abuse of detainees and their wives by security forces back home. Still, Aswany's portrayal of Lieutenant Safwat Shakir's behaviour with the wives of political detainees is truly brilliant, reflecting a striking mix of the abuse of power and obsessive lust that informs this type of character. [...]

"'Chicago has sold over 75,000 copies in Egypt since January, but I am getting negative reactions all the time. [...]' Aswany added sadly, [...]. Still, the novel will be adapted for the screen, though Aswany gave no further details. Nor did he reveal what he intends to write about next, and whether, as one audience member prophesied, it would be political corruption in Egypt: 'One day we will all disappear and so will political dictatorships, but the novel will stay. For me, writing a novel is like falling in love with a beautiful woman - you can never tell how and when you will fall in love again.'

Source: Al Ahram Weekly (Egypt), 8-14 November, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Libya to host International Book Fair

"Local, Arab and international publishing houses are scheduled to participate in the 8 th edition of Libya's international book exhibition which opens on 12 November in Tripoli, sources in the Libyan capital said on Monday.

"The sources said the exhibition was aimed at creating Arabic and international interactions through the organization of a cultural and scientific event based on 'the book as a companion to the reader and the learner'. [...]

"The exhibition would have stands for printed and electronic Arabic and foreign books, as well as children's books.

"A cultural event, poetry recitals, cultural conferences, specialized meetings and roundtables to be attended by intellectuals and publishers are some of the highlights of the fair."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

230 books banned in Kuwait

Officials at the books censorship committee issued a decision banning the exhibition of 230 books scheduled to be exhibited at the 32nd Kuwait Book Exhibition which will be inaugurated next Tuesday.
They said that the committee banned the books after reviewing 560 new books but added that they would review the banned books again in order to avoid an expected crisis with the publishing Dars (Houses).

Source: Kuwait Times (Kuwait), November 7, 2007

Tradition keeping Yemeni girls out of school

The number of Yemeni girls whose parents keep them out of school remains scandalously high. Many are unable to complete – or even begin their studies – due to family poverty, which forces families to prevent them from attending school. But it is also due to the influence of tradition, which, in many families, dictates that girls do not deserve an education because they are inherently incapable of learning, whereas it is considered essential for boys.

The situation is at its most severe in Yemen’s rural areas. Some 24 percent of girls in villages are educated, while 69 percent of their male counterparts are educated, according to the Arab Human Development Report for the year 2005-2006. In urban areas, 59 percent of girls are educated, versus 84 percent of boys.
Source: Yemeni Observer (Yemen), November 6, 2007

First Sana’a International Women and Children Book Fair

The first Sana’a International Women and Children Book Fair is a new fair organized by the General Authority for Books, coming in December.

Various local and Arab publishing houses will participate. The GAB recently finished Sana’a’s 24th International Book Fair last week. The success of the fair and its record attendance was the reason for organizing a special exhibition for women and children, according to the GAB. The volume of sales achieved by the 24th International Book Fair is estimated to be nearly YR 1 billion – an increase of 800 million compared to the previous year. There were one million visitors in attendance over the 12 days, with the participation of more than 270 local and foreign publishing houses.

The establishment of a Yemeni Publishers Union was also officially announced. The fair accompanied a number of events organized by the GAB. There were book signings for titles such as Al-Qaeda: Establishment and Intellectual background, Yemen as a model, both by Saeed Ubaid al-Jumjumi and Yemen and the Privacy of Governance, Democracy and Unity by Dr. Abdul-Wahab al-Rawhani.

There was also a signing for a book on Yemeni music and the complete works of Abdullah Abdul-Wahab No’man, known as al-Fadool. The new Sana’a International Women and Children Book Fair will be an annual event to provide books for children and expand their base of knowledge.

Source: Yemen Observer (yemen), November 10, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sales of Used Books Thrive in Riyadh

"Although the culture of used books is new to the Kingdom, many secondhand bookstores are thriving in the capital city. [...]

"Secondhand bookstores contain a large variety of books on many subjects, including religion, medicine, engineering, administration, computer science, history and psychology among many other topics. [...]

"According to a Sudanese man working at one of these shops, the idea to sell secondhand books came from university students advertising used books inside university halls or housing compounds. [...]

"Arab News observed that some rare books, even in Urdu, are on sale in these stores. Books on science and history are found in huge numbers.

"Some secondhand shops register book details on their computer database for the convenience of customers. Book lovers from everywhere — men and women, Saudis and non-Saudis — find these shops to be an enjoyable experience."

Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia), November 8, 2007

Algeria Bans Oppositionist's Book At Annual Book Fair

All copies of the new book by journalist Mohamed Benchicou, The Jails of Algiers, were confiscated, and the publisher's booth shut down, at the opening of the annual Algiers book fair.
Cartoon: " Astonishment at the Book Fair in Algiers"
Man: " What? The stand of Benchicou is closed?"
Cartoon by Dilem, published in the Algerian daily Liberté

The book deals, inter alia, with the two years its author spent in prison. Benchicou was tried for bringing foreign currency into the country, but the trial, which was harshly criticized by human rights organizations, was held after he criticized Algerian Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni and published a book on the Algerian president titled Bouteflika: An Algerian Imposter.

The book fair organizers said that his new book was banned for display because the required permit had not been obtained.

Source:, November 3 and 5, 2007

Rachid Boudjedra: Enfant terrible of Algerian Literature awarded

The Algerian novelist and poet Rachid Boudjedra was awarded of the Algerian Prize, Priz des Librairies 2007, in the Palais des Expositions.

The novelist said that he has been awarded worldwide, but it is the first time that his work was awarded in Algeria.

The Algerian Bookshops Association has chosen the Novelist Rachid Boudjedra to be 2007 Prize-winner for his distinguished, outspoken, versatile and controversial books dedicated to the Algerian society.

Source: El Khabar (Algeria), November 8, 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kuwait Book Fair

The 32nd Kuwait Book Fair will be held from Nov 13 to 23 at the Kuwait International Fairgrounds in Mishref. The book fair will be held under the auspices of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah and will be launched on Nov 13 at 10 am by the Minister of Information Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.

The Kuwait Book Fair is the third largest book fair in the Middle East after Cairo and Beirut.

"The Kuwait Book Fair is important for people who are into culture and it is highly attended by Arab writers and publishers. It really is an important event for Kuwait," said Bader Al-Rifai, Secretary General of the NCCAL, during the conference. The Kuwait Book Fair is more than an exhibition as it includes other cultural events as well. "It's a cultural festival which is anticipated by intellectuals and readersevery year. Besides being a huge place for exhibiting and selling books, it is also a social gathering place for likeminded individuals," Al-Rifai added.

There will be 538 publishing houses from 23 countries participating in the fair. 477 publishing houses are privately owned while 55 are publicly owned and six publishing houses are owned by international and Arab organizations. "278 of these publishing houses are participating directly, while 260 of them are participating on behalf of other publishers. The fair will contain 11,891 book titles including 9,995 Arabic books, 713 books in other languages, 837 Arabic books for kids, and 364 books for kids in other languages," noted Sa'ad Al-Mutairi, the fair's general director.This year, there will also be additional activities at the book fair. There will be three symposiums held about the media and about books in Kuwait. In addition to this, an evening devoted to poem recitals will be held.

The fair will have an art exhibition portraying some art work done by 20 female Kuwaiti artists from different schools and it will also include an Arabic heritage exhibition of some original calligraphy and rare copies of the Holy Qur'an.

Source: Kuwait Times (Kuwait)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bin Laden’s book tops the charts at Algiers International Book fair

"'Unveiled Bin Laden' has gone number one in best – selling book list at Algiers International Book fair, according to the 'World Book Company' spokesman, though banned in previous publications.

"The book written by Al Jazeera’s TV presenter, Ahmed Zeidane, is an exhaustive compilation of some of the most prominent world figures who expressed their views on the personality of the most wanted person on earth. The writer confronted in the 215- page- book the opposing positions of both Bin Laden’s fans and opponents.

"The writer starts its 'journey' in Bin Laden’s quest with the first encounter between the man and Abu Othman in 2000 where it was agreed upon the idea of visiting Afghanistan. The first 'Fatwa' for an embargo on US goods was launched at that moment in Bin Laden’s house.

"One of the most striking passage in the book is the one in which the writer describes his meeting with Al Qaeeda’s leader along with London’s 'Al Hayat' reporter on the occasion of his son’s wedding. During this whole day encounter Bin laden talked about the strategy of his movement as well as the best means to spread his ideology worldwide".

Source: Echorouk (Algeria), November 5, 2007

"Afghan publisher arrested for changing the Quran"

"Unofficial translation misinterprets homosexuality and adultery"

"Afghan police have arrested a man accused of publishing an unofficial translation of the Quran that has sparked protests in parts of the country, newspapers said on Monday. [...]

"MP's accused the publisher of misinterpreting the Muslim holy book on many issues including homosexuality and adultery in his translation into Dari, the second most used language in Afghanistan.

"Ghaus Zalmai, the publisher of the translation, was arrested on Sunday trying to cross the border into neighboring Pakistan. Zalmai was also a spokesman for Afghanistan's attorney general. 'This is a plot against the religion of Islam, and no one will ever accept the book as the holy Quran,' daily Armaan newspaper quoted Judge Abdul Salam Azimi as saying. [...]"

Source: Al Arabiya (Saudi-owned, based in Dubai), November 5, 2007

Sunday, November 4, 2007

[News from the Muslim World] Quran translation causes uproar in Afghanistan

"Afghanistan's conservative parliament was in uproar Saturday over a translation of the Quran by a government official they accused of trying to create division among Muslims.

"Parliamentarians accused the official of misinterpreting the Muslim holy book on many issues including homosexuality and adultery in his translation into Dari, the second most used language in Afghanistan. [...]"

Source: Al Arabiya (Saudi-owned, based in Dubai), November 4, 2007

[News from the Muslim world] Rumi remembered in Iran

"Iran has celebrated the 800th birthday of Jalal ad-din Muhammad Rumi, the poet and spiritual leader famous across much of central and western Asia, with a week-long conference in the cities of Tehran, Khoy and Tabriz.
"But scholars say that political pressures and the increasing commercialisation of Sufism, the mystical strand of Islam Rumi so heavily influenced, threaten to overshadow the poet's message of universal love and tolerance. [...]"

Source: Al Jazeera (Qatar), October 28, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

[News from the Muslim world] Iranian Newspaper defends book-cafes against Authority crackdown

"[...] It is important to mention that book-cafes, which are popular in the country, are among the most traditional establishments supported by the councils and bookshops across the world. If book-cafes are popular in the developed countries, do we not deserve to follow their lead? It seems that the cultural officials have taken a wrong route dealing with the artists and scholars. [...]

"We want to ask to the following question to Culture officials: 'What kind of threat does a group of scholars who meet in a book shop to have a scholarly chat or to write and drink a cup of tea, pose to our society? [...]”

Source: E'temad-e Melli (Iran), October 23, 2007

[News from the Muslim World] Iran’s police targets ‘book-cafes’

"Iranian police have ordered shut and sealed several Teheran bookshops which also provide coffee and snacks to readers, because of what one officer termed ‘a clash of professions.’

"‘Based on the (booksellers) union law, owners of one type of business are not allowed to practise two different professions at the same time,’ head of Teheran police information, Colonel Mehdi Ahmadi, told AFP on Saturday. [...]

"Besides offering a pleasant atmosphere for book lovers, the book-cafes in Teheran also hosted cultural events.

"Since April, Iran has been pressing ahead with one of its toughest crackdowns in years, warning women about dressing immodestly, targeting ‘immoral’ cafes and seizing illegal satellite dishes."

Source: AFP

Yemen: Former minister's book criticizes government and opposition

"The former finance minister Saif al-Asali has confirmed that Yemen needs 'immediate comprehensive and reverberant solutions for its economic problems, applying laws and giving priority to human resources development'.

"Al-Asali who held the ministry of finance for a short period and refused to hold the ministry of trade and industry in the latest government reshuffle, has released a book entitled 'My Story with Finance Ministry' in which he has criticized the government institutions, political parties and civil society organizations.

"The book contains notes about the ministry of finance and says that the most prominent problems of the ministry are: the centralization, neglecting the revenues, low transparency, the lack of proper financial planning, the low level of accountability, duality of duties of financial units especially those in-charge of preparing the state’s budget. [...]".

Syria Participates in Sana'a International Book Fair

"Sana'a 24th International Book Fair was opened on Monday here with the participation of more than 270 local and Arab publishing houses including more than 30 Syrian's.

Director of Exhibitions at Ministry of Culture and Head of the Syrian delegation to the Fair Sahar Omran said that the Syrian participation contains nearly 200 titles issued by the ministry. [...]"


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A book on Identity, political Islam and democracy

The Crisis of Islamic Culture (2005, La crise de la culture Islamique)

Author: Hichem Djaït
Publishing House: Cérès (Tunisia,

About the Book: An analysis on crucial questions such as identity, modernity, nationalism, political Islam, Islamic movements, the holy, the profane and democracy.

Hichem Djaït examines without indulgence the efforts deployed, in the last century and a half, by intellectuals and leaders of the Islamic world in order to adapt themselves and their societies to the “unbelievable novelties of modernity”. The author strongly points out that “Arabs and Muslims will not be able to enter into modernity and participate to the modern world unless they give themselves great goals in the fields of thought, knowledge, science, art and literature and borrow from the others what modernity has created in all these domains".

Language: French
Number of pages: 220 pages
Format: 14,5 x 21 cm
To Buy the Book:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Algerian School books glorifying colonialism

"Unforgivable crime against the Algerian historic memory"

"[...] an expression glorifying colonialism in Algeria in the 5th primary year history book and another one offending freedom fighters in the 4th intermediate year history book.
"The expression glorifying the French colonialism was mentioned in P17 as follows: 'in the early 19th century, during the industrial revolution, France developed its army and built up its military capacities which allowed to free Algeria.” Specialists say that the expression “to freeeAlgeria” is an attempt to alter History and to glorify French colonialism, especially, given the fact that the book was cloned on history programmes adopted by the former coloniser.

"Furthermore, the 4th intermediate history book quoted in P59 'At the end of WWII, the French coloniser barbaric aspect was finally disclosed. This has fuelled the People’s Party militants’ extremism and the gap between them and those who aspired at a pacific coexistence with France [...]'. Historians consider that the expression 'extremists' [is undermining the memory of the revolution]. [...]"

El Khabar (Algeria), October 30, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

12th International Book Fair in Algeria

The 12th International Book Fair in Algeria is going to take place in Algiers between the 31st of October and the 9th of November.
559 publishing houses are going to participate in the Book Fair.

1,000 New Books Banned From Display At Algeria Book Fair

A source on the supervisory committee of Algeria's annual book fair said that some 1,000 new books, some 90% of which were religious, had been banned from display.

Under the fair's 2003 statutes, books supporting terrorism or racism, harming national and territorial unity, or harming public morals, Allah, or the prophets may not be displayed.

Source: El-Shorouq El-Yawmi (Algeria), October 23, 2007

First Arabic language publishing house to open in Rome

"Italy's Arabic language publishing house will next week launch in Rome, in a bid to bridge the shortfall of European literary works available in Arabic and vice versa, reported Italian daily La Repubblica.

"It is called Sharq-Gharb or East-West, and plans to publish famous Italian literary works such as Dante's Divine Comedy, as well as more modern works such as The Days of Abandonment by leading contemporary author Elena Ferrante, among others. [...]"

Adnkronos, October 26, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sana’a holds 24th International Book Fair

"Books of all genres and languages are for sale at the 24th annual Sana’a International Book Fair, which began on Monday. The fair, organized by the General Authority for Books, is a chance to see books of all types under one roof, said Faris al-Saqqaf, head of the GAB.

“'It is a re-consideration of the book as we know it.' The fair also includes a number of cultural events such as concerts, lectures, and books signings. [...]

More than 270 local and foreign publishing houses and 14 official publishers from various Arab countries will display over 500,000 titles during the book fair. The fair runs until November 2. As was the case last year, the books are being sold at the same price as bookshops. [...]

“Most of the people come to the fair to ask for books and publishers so they now where to find them later on. Many people, especially students, do not have that much money to buy the books seen in these publishing houses,” he said. [...]

“The fair is important in the consolidation of Yemeni culture since the book is still the basic resource for culture. Even with the evolution of technology and the information revolution, the book remains very important. The government is keen to develop such fairs annually so that they become distinct book fairs. Yemeni culture should be consolidated for the next generation, which must learn to read.” The Prime Minister praised the efforts made by the Ministry of Culture and the General Authority of Books, which organized the fair and expressed satisfaction with the management and diversity of books displayed. [...]"
Source: Yemen Observer, October 27, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

A book to understand Sunni and Shi'a divisions

The Great Discord, Religion and politics at the origins of Islam (2007, La grande discorde, Religion et politique dans l’Islam des origines)

Author: Hichem Djaït
Publishing House: Cérès (Tunisia,

About the Book: The Great Discord deals with the relationship between politics and religion at the origins of Islam, taking into consideration several levels. First, the author analyses, from an historical and critical perspective, the period of primeval caliphate and mostly its last phase, the Great Discord (Fitna).

During this period, through a struggle that lasted more than five years, the “nation of Muhammad", the Umma, was torn apart. This was a period of crisis and civil wars that caused great divisions in Islam that was thereinafter split into Sunni, Shi'a and Kharji denominations.

On a different level, primeval caliphate keeps on being of great interest to modern Muslims who still project over this period the politico-religious debate deriving from the impact with modernity and the independence of national states.

Secularization of politics and of the State or Islam? A question that continues to split modern Islamic conscience in two.

Today, this critical reading of the origins is even more indispensable since it allows to better understand the present revamping of the conflict between Sunnis and Shi'as.

Language: French
Number of pages: 413 pages
Format: 14,5 x 21 cm

"Egyptian poet fears for life after 'infidel' ruling"

"Renowned Egyptian poet Ahmed al-Shahawi said he fears for his life after the Center for Islamic Research, the highest jurisprudence body at Al-Azhar, declared him an 'infidel'.

"Al-Shahawi told that he has filed a lawsuit against the Grand Imam Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, who signed the fatwa (religious edict).'Questioning my faith without listening to what I have to say is unacceptable', Al-Shahawi said.

"The poet said Egypt's National Security Bureau referred the second volume of his book Commandments on the Love of Women (Wasaya fi Eshk Al-Nesaa) to the Center 10 months after it hit the stands.

"Based on the Center's report, the book was confiscated, and all copies were withdrawn. The first volume of the book was subjected to the same treatment when released in 2003.

"Al-Shahawi's attorney, Hamdi al-Asyouti appealed to the Minister of Interior and the Grand Imam to revoke the confiscation. In his memorandum, Al-Asyouti stated that the wording of the Center's first fatwa 'sanctions shedding Al-Shahawi's blood and explicitly calls him an infidel.'

"Al-Shahawi said he did not understand why the second volume was given to the same person who wrote the apostasy report in 2003. He said he doesn't expect the court ruling to be in his favor, but he wanted to demonstrate how 'this historic religious institution' is hurling groundless allegations of apostasy and is becoming more fanatical than Islamist extremist groups.

"'How could they render me an infidel in absentia?', Al-Shahawi wondered. 'With this unprecedented lawsuit, I refuse to bow to Al-Azhar's authority. If they want to take me to court, I'll do the same to them.' The Center's General Secretariat did not comment on the matter. Al-Shahawi is planning to file another two lawsuits against two scholars at the center, Dr. Abdel-Rahman Al-Adawi and Dr. Mohamed Raafat Osman, for accusing him of apostasy and endangering his life. [...]"

Source: Al (Saudi owned, based in Dubai), October 24, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Books for Children in Saudi Arabia

"With many Saudi writers of the new generation showing tendencies toward taboo subjects such as sex, religion, and politics, others have chosen to concentrate on different areas and write for children. Numbers of young Saudi young writers target the new generation; however, their work faces problem in reaching children as reading is not yet a pastime for most Saudi children.

"Though reading remains at the bottom of parents' and educational institutions' priorities, Wafa Kamel, Executive Director of "Annabtah" Publishing Company which specializes in children's literature, pointed out that there are local publishing and distribution companies as well as annual children's books exhibitions. [...]

"For many years there were no Saudis writing for children for the simple reason that there was no financial reward in doing so. That, however, is changing now and there are Saudi writers who write for Saudi children on subjects that the children know and understand.

"Mona Alosaymi, a 28 year-old, is an artist [...]. She says, 'Every culture requires dealing with different subjects and that's why it is important for Saudis to write for children and discuss issues that are of concern to our society'. She published her first children's story last September; it deals with phenomena that is widespread among Saudi children. 'It's common for many children feel inferior to others of different colors, family names, or income levels. The story highlighted the criteria that one should be called 'a better person' based on ethics and behaviors and on nothing else'.

"Yousif Almohaimeed is another Saudi writer. He admits that foreign characters and stories translated from other languages are still the most popular among Arab children. He explained this by saying that although some Arabic children's books are as good as any foreign ones, they are not widely read by Arab children. He says that this is because foreign children's books often includes a range of subjects that children enjoy. 'Arabic stories, on the other hand,' he said, 'tend to be either religious or strictly educational. He stressed that reading translated books is not negative, especially if the book deals with human experience which all children are familiar with."At the same time,' he pointed out, 'our books should be a display of our experience and our view of the world'."
Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

France Celebrated Algerian Literature

The French Mediterranean Art Centre has selected Algeria as a main theme for studies in a seminar on October 11th at Perpignan (Southern France). The theme of the seminar was “Algeria … Inter-crossed opinions on the foot steps of Albert Camus and Kateb Yacine.”

[...] Algeria was represented through the play “1962” to its stage director Mohammed Gacimi as well as through the screening of some Algerian movies for instance the French –Moroccan film “the brother enemy” in which the Algerian comic Mohammed Fellag played a part.

Source: (Algeria)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Negm, Egyptian opposition poet, out of hospital

One of Egypt’s most famed poet-cum-politicians has left hospital after being admitted over suspicions of a blood clot to his brains. Ahmed Fouad Negm, 78, insisted on checking out to recover at home when his physicians found out he was suffering from hypertension.

Dubbed the "poet of the people" and considered by many as a "folk hero", Negm is known for his harsh criticism of the regime and his fiery poems that got him to spend a total of 18 years behind bars.

Source: (Saudi owned, based in Dudai), October 11, 2007

Well-known Moroccan Author against Islamist ideology

On Islamism: A personal refutation to religious fondamentalism (2006, De l'islamisme : Une réfutation personnelle du totalitarisme religieux)

Fouad Laroui
Publishing House: Robert Laffont

About the Book:
"It's enormously readable, it has lots of humor (just like Laroui's novels), and it manages to bring a few fresh perspectives on a topic that has been beaten half to death. Laroui's background in science also comes in handy as he deconstructs some of the ridiculous claims made by religious extremists". Source: Moroccan authro Laila Lalami's blog,

Number of pages: 198 pages
Format: 135 x 215 mm

Christian conversions in the colonial Algeria

Christians of Kabyle, 1873-1954 (2004, Chrétiens de Kabylie, 1873-1954)

Author: Karima Direche-Slimani
Publishing House: Bouchène (Algeria,

About the Book: Conversions to Christianity, in colonial Algeria, are a little known phenomenon that didn’t receive much attention by scholars of social sciences. Muslims converting themselves to Christianity in the framework of French colonization have rather made the object of excessive representations linked to the idea of treason and infamy.

Kabyle has been the region where a policy of evangelization has been experimented and that begun around 1870, on the initiative of Charles de Lavigerie, archbishop of Algiers from 1867. Convinced of the existence of old Christian roots in Berber society, he conducted missionary activities in mountainous Kabyle that he deemed like the African Lebanon.

Number of page: 144 pages
Format: 16x24 cm
To Buy the Book:

A Noteworthy Book on Arab Media

(Un)Civil War of Words: Media and Politics in the Arab World (2007)

Author: Mamoun Fandy (Senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, writer and columnist for the leading Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat)
Publising House: Praeger Security Intl. (US,

About the Book: "As the war on terror rages, another battleground has quickly taken shape and is being waged on daily newscasts around the world. In the Arab world, al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya are leading the fight. Do these news networks simply provide the news? Or, are they, as westerners suspect, tools used by governments and terrorists alike to relay their message to the man on the street as both Arab and Western leaders struggle to win the hearts and minds of millions of people? Fandy examines the impact that these and other news organizations have had on the war on terror, on the Arab world, and on the relationships that Arab nations share with each other, as well as those they share with the West. Focusing on al-Jazeera and other Arab networks, Fandy examines the battle between the Arab world and the West through the popular medium of television. He explores how autocratic governments control the media in order to preserve their own power while simultaneously engaging in a war of words, either with their neighbors, the West, or many times, both". Source:

Language: English
Number of page: 176 pages
Format: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
To Buy the Book:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book Celebrates Achievements of Saudi Women

Marking the dynamic change in the lives of Saudi women in the past few years, journalist Ali Fagandash is currently working on the second edition of a collection of biographies of successful Saudi women. The first edition of “Women of Saudi Arabia” was published last year and included profiles of 80 women, contemporary and from the 20th Century. The book sold out.

“I wanted to show to the world that despite the image of Saudi women, and despite all difficulties, there are quite a lot of women in Saudi Arabia who have excelled at their professions, be it media, education, fine arts, business and entertainment.”

The 2006 edition of the book focused primarily on women of the Hijaz (from the western coastal region of the Kingdom). The second edition, said Fagandash, would include a greater variety of women from across the Kingdom. The author said he is planning to release translations in French and English.

The first edition included Saudi Arabia’s first woman novelist Samira Khashoggi. The black-and-white picture accompanying the biography shows a woman with a 1960s-era garcon hairdo and no head scarf. At the beginning of the book is Rajaa Al-Sanea, the author of the much-publicized book “The Girls of Riyadh”. Al-Sanea’s color photograph shows a young woman in a black hijab and full makeup.

The book also includes singers Toha and Ibtisam Lutfi, from the first generation of Saudi singers, as well as the contemporary Arabic pop singer Waad.

Fagandash said the second edition would be available in Saudi book stores next year.

Arab News (Saudi Arabia), October 8, 2007, by Ebtihal Mubarak

A Breathtaking Novel with a jasmine scent from Tunisia

Brasilia Café (2006)

Author: Ahmed Mahfoudh
Publishing House: Cérès (Tunisia,

About the Book: A breathtaking novel about Tunis in the ‘70s. Loves, friendships, revolutions and dreams. Brasilia café, located inside the Palmarium, place devoted to arts and intellects, is the beating heart of the city, the point towards which desires and illusions, present and past, students and actors converge.

From Bourguiba Avenue to rue Bach Hamba, from the Municipal Theatre to the new suburbs, from Salammbô to Borj Erroumi, destinies overlap or break out, locked away by obsession or jalousie, always in pursuit of the swift passage of time. Under a reddish sky, the air filled with dust and jasmine scent, laughter and psalmodies, first sexual experiences and turnaround of situation, a murder takes place.

Brasilia café, is a story of rare qualities, that describes, with an free and catchy overtones, all the complexity and hopes of life.

Language: French
Number of pages: 146 pages
Fortmat: 13,5x21cm
To Buy the Book:

Professor Menahem Milson on The Saudi Novel Girls of Riyadh

In an April 14, 2007 interview on an Arabic program on Israeli TV, Professor Menahem Milson discussed the novel Banat Al-Riyadh ("Girls of Riyadh") by Saudi author Dr. Rajaa Al-Sanie, which describes the lives of four young women in Riyadh. The novel is structured as a series of emails sent anonymously by one of the young women.

Banat Al-Riyadh, which was published in 2005, sparked much controversy in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, with some praising it for its boldness and literary merit, and others condemning it as provocative.

It is possible to view the interview in the following link:

Arab ‘Prince of Poets’ Crowned in UAE

Millions of Arabs witnessed the crowning of the “Prince of Poets” in the largest cultural competition in the world for choosing the best poet in classical Arabic [...].

The contest is considered a milestone in helping revive classical Arabic poetry. For Arabs, poetry is considered the ultimate art form that has the capability of producing profound emotions in its listeners. As a result Arabs have called poetry “the lawful magic” (“sihr halal”). Classical Arabic poetry dates back to pre-Islamic eras.

Emirati poet Karim Maato took first place with a reward of Dhs1 million. Mohammed Wald Al-Talib from Mauritania took the second spot winning Dhs500,000. Saudi Jassim Al-Sahih came in as second runner up, bagging Dhs300,000. Sudanese poet Rawdha Al Haj, the only woman to reach the finals, took fourth place and walked away with Dhs200,000. The fifth-place winner was Palestinian Tamim Al-Bargouthi; he won Dhs100,000. [...]

Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia), September 9, 2007, by Shadiah Abdullah