The Government of Qatar Banned My Book
Okay, maybe “banned “ is too strong a word. But they did effectively block the Arabic translation.
Here’s what happened.
I was a guest participant at the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature in Dubai, as described in this account.
There, I met a representative of Bloomsbury Qatar, and we shook hands on the Arabic translation deal.
I was so happy! An Arabic translation of my book. I had no doubt that many Arabic-speakers would read it with interest.
Then, a few weeks later, I was told by e-mail that the deal was off. The Government of Qatar’s Ministry of Culture had withdrawn support, which was necessary for the translation, because of “unsuitable content.” And that’s all I was ever told.
What could that be? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not the foul language, sex, and violence – because there isn’t any (not much, anyway).
So I have these thoughts.
Could it be the brutal honesty of my thoughts and observations? Because that is one often-noted characteristic of this book – the compelling honesty, without any attempt to filter, justify or analyze what happens in the narrative. Because it’s all true, and there’s no point in me trying to sanitize it.
Could it be because I wondered as a child how we knew that Islam was true? How did we know that Muhammad didn’t just make it up? Surely all children have such thoughts, whenever they are taught to believe their parents’ religion?
Could it be because I mentioned the wealthy Arabs coming to London and drinking, gambling, womanizing – and wondered if they knew these were against our Islamic code of conduct?
Could it be because I mention throughout the poor treatment of women, and of how this is utterly hypocritical?
Could it be because I denounce the vile veil-across-the face as a cultural artifact of utter stupidity and ignorance?
Could it be that I suggested that, in order to apply Islam to the modern world, we actually have to think and reason, not blindly follow rules and procedures applicable to a desert environment with no technology?
Never mind. Whatever the “unsuitable content”, I have no doubt that I will get an Arabic publisher in due course. In case certain people hadn’t noticed, there’s change afoot in the whole region.
They can resist, they can delay it, but ultimately, they cannot stop it.