Alexandria book fair takes a Salafist turn

Mary Mourad, Tuesday 11 Oct 2011

Some participating organisations back out as Salafist speakers appear on the agenda without prior discussion


The Alexandria Book and Info-Tech Fair, which started on October 3, has chosen many Salafist figures to be keynote speakers, leading to much debate. The General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) announced its withdrawal from the fair, and explained that  this was due to the unexpected change in the cultural programme originally agreed with the organising company.

According to Hassan Sorour, responsible for the cultural agenda, the GEBO had organised a rich programme to accompany the fair, hosting intellectual guests from various fields. However, the printed version of the programme handed out was a totally different agenda, with different guests, all of them belonging to the Salafist movement and not previously agreed on.

Ahmed Megahed, head of the GEBO, shared a statement yesterday explaining that the original sessions of the GEBO were completely ignored and lacked basic facilities, or even chairs. In addition, a discussion which was planned to take place yesterday by Hafez El-Mirazy conflicted with another by a Salafist speaker who was not on the agenda, and, since El-Mirazy was coming to the session at his own personal expense, “it didn’t seem appropriate for our guests and our organisation to be present at a fair taking place under these conditions, and thus we preferred to withdraw,” he explained to Ahram Online yesterday.

Speaking to Mohamed Rashad, chairman of the Egyptian Publishers Association (EPA), he explained that following the statement they issued which denied claims that Al-Nour Salafist party was the guest of honour at the fair, the Egyptian Publishers Association also sent a warning to the company organising the fair, asking them to respect their commitments or else be subject to financial penalty. However, the EPA was responsible for organising the books section of the fair with publishers, and thus will not withdraw from the fair.

An opinion article on Al-Masry Al-Youm website yesterday related to the fair also stirred concerns, mentioning that Ibrahim Aslan would be hosted among Salafist and Islamist speakers at the fair. Aslan himself confirmed that he had not left his home in Cairo and that such an event never took place.

Concerns are rising as to the increasing influence of Salafists, especially in Alexandria, and their relation with the cultural sphere, a space from which they have traditionally been absent.

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