Will Censorship Ever End?
Censorship here in the U.S continues to be a controversial and unsettled subject within our society, especially within literature. Knowing this, I became curious to find out what type of censorship controversies and issues Middle Easterners are faced with in their literature, and I was not too surprised to find out that there have been many issues with certain types of literature that has resulted to a literature ban list, just like certain books we have in the U.S.
In Saudi Arabia there is an annual book in March fair called, Riyadh International Book Fair, where there is a vast variety of literature available to the public for this week. The people of Saudi Arabia genuinely love this annual fair because it gives them a chance to diversify themselves into other cultures by reading from another perspective. The fair also gives opportunity networking platform for publishers, writers and scholars, as well as academic institutions. So the significance of this event for authors is very pressing for their works, but this past year the fair removed 420 books from the shelves leaving the authors in defeat of censorship.
The reason this many books were taken of the shelves at the fair was solely due to censorship. Many of the authors that had their books removed are known to be very influential and prominent writers, so it came across as a shock when their books were not featured. These books that were removed dealt heavily on gender, religion, and politics, which happen to be the three most depicted and criticized literature topics to explore. In the Middle East, these topics are harder for authors to work with due to the narrow constraints of traditional society they have to work within, but when they do it is important for the audience to have access to the literature to find their own voice. Specific books that were removed include “When will the Saudi Woman Drive a Car?”, “The History of Hijab”, and “Feminism in Islam.”, and due to the content of the book, according to the fairs organizing committee, is a threat towards Islamic security and they deemed these book as anti-Islam since the challenge the conservative traditions of Islamic culture and religion.
The act of banning these books doesn’t have any justice for anyone in the situations. The authors who are vastly known aren’t getting recognition for their attempts to promote awareness and progression, and in turn the people aren’t getting access to all the information to become more informed on issues such as gender equality. The strict enforcement of thought and law in Saudi Arabia is very counterproductive when dealing with current Islamic thought, and it doesn’t help towards progression within their society. Any deviation from this traditional conservative thought leads to the assumption of Un-Islamic, so many citizens don’t want to try to undermine their religion, but they are interested in learning about these discourses within banned literature. Like I said earlier though, these restrictions were not all that shocking because it is just one of the many restrictions Saudi Arabians are faced with. There will continue to be restrictions and traditional customs within the Saudi Arabia due to their strong ties to their religion, but censorship might be a difficult challenge to overcome, because censorship is such a pressing issue not only in conservative nations, but we also have troubles overcoming it in ‘free” democratic nations like the U.S.