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Saudi's religious police reject 'doll' cover: Publisher

Saudi's religious police banned an Egyptian novel because of its cover, not content, publisher alleges

Ahram Online, Wednesday 13 Mar 2013
Cover of the Egyptian novel "Mandorela" banned in Saudi Arabia's book fair (Photo: AO)
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Fatma El-Boudy, publisher of an Egyptian novel banned at the Riyadh Book Fair in Saudi Arabia, has said that the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) made their decision because of the doll shown on the cover, Egypt's Al-Mal newspaper reported Wednesday.

"Members of the CPVPV usually walk in the Riyadh Book Fair and ban books that seems suspicious to them, and this is not the first time Egyptian publications have been stopped without valid cause," Fatma said.

El-Boudy spoke to Ahram on Saturday when the CPVPV issued the order, arguing that only Saudi Arabia's ministry of information is supposedly entitled to deal with publications.

Ahmed El-Fakharani, author of 'Mandrola', a novel, said that the ban was expected. "I am not upset by the ban, but it is not acceptable to ban a novel due to its cover and not content," he said.

This controversial action came following Monday's visit by Egypt's Minister of Culture, Saber Arab, to Saudi Arabia to join the nation's three-day celebration after Madinah Al-Munawarrah (The Illuminated City) was chosen as the Capital of Arab and Islamic Culture for 2013.

The visit included attending a number of artistic and cultural activities, including exhibitions, seminars and conferences.

Sheikh Abdel Latif Al-Sheikh, head of the CPVPV, also known as Haia, said last month that the Gulf kingdom's religious police would not confiscate any books on display at the fair.

"The role of the CPVPV is only to notify the Ministry of Culture and Media in case religious or moral [violations] take place at the fair," Saudi Okaz newspaper quoted him as saying.

Understood as Saudi Arabia's second most powerful political body after the ruling Al-Saud family, the Haia police are feared in Saudi streets. Haia personnel may approach and arrest anyone they deem as breaking their rules, even if merely inciting "fitna," or temptation.

Al-Sheikh also announced that both men and women would be allowed to attend the book fair in the capital Riyadh, in line with steps taken by the monarchy to reduce the limitations on personal freedom in the country.

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