Youssef al-Qaradawi (Photo: AP)
The Egyptian Ministry of Culture denied in a statement released early Saturday, 31 January, that it had confiscated books of the Qatar-based Muslim cleric Youssef Al-Qaradawi from the Cairo International Book Fair that started Wednesday, 28 January, saying they were removed by the publisher, Dar El-Shorouk.
The ministry said the books, which were on sale in the Dar El-Shorouk Publishing House wing at the fair, were removed by the publisher due to the “disapproval and dismay" expressed by visitors to the fair given that Al-Qaradawi "does not deny his affiliation to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group."
Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born cleric who has close links to the Muslim Brotherhood, has been critical of Egypt's government, accusing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi of betrayal for ousting President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. He also called for protests in Egypt on the anniversary of the January 25 Revolution.
Books of the late radical Islamist author Sayyed Qutb were also withdrawn by El-Shorouk.
Ahmed Megahed, director of the General Egyptian Book Organisation, confirmed that Dar El-Shorouk withdrew the books from its wing.
The ministry said that it “believes in freedom of expression and does not put any restrictions or censorship on which books are be displayed and which books are not. Thus it was not informed that these books will be displayed" and neither interferred to remove them. The ministry said that the only books that are subject to censorship are books that come from abroad, as "they fall under different rules that the ministry has no authority over.”
Dar El-Shorouk is the publisher of the works of Al-Qaradawi since many years. It also publishes the works of radical Islamist author and educator Sayyed Qutb, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was executed in 1966.
El-Shorouk, did not release any statement on the matter and could not be reached for comment.
The works of Al-Qaradawi,and Qutb have been displayed and sold at the Cairo International Book Fair without issue for years. Yet the changing political atmosphere in Egypt appears to have changed the way visitors perceive their books. Qutb is seen as the radical godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood group that the government and media deems responsible for ongoing violence in the country since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Meanwhile, many of the publications of the ministry and the General Egyptian Book Organisation, the organizer of the fair, are on Qutb and his works, such as the recently released book by historian Sherif Younis, Sayyed Qutb and Islamic Radicalism.
Al-Qaradawi, who led the Friday prayer in Tahrir Square on 19 February 2011, a week after longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak was removed, and was praised by large numbers of protesters, has lost a majority of his supporters in Egypt as he started to overtly express his allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood, at the same time showing growing hostility to the Egyptian regime.