New release: In Defence of Heritage by ex-culture minister Asfour

Ahram Online, Monday 11 Mar 2013

With masterpieces of Arab written heritage such as 'One Thousand and One Nights' at risk of censorship by Islamist conservatives, Egyptian former culture minister Gaber Asfour comes to the defence in his new book

Difa’an a’n al turath (In Defence of Heritage) by Gaber Asfour: Cairo: Al-Dar Al-Masreya Al-Lubnaneya. 286pp.

In his new book In Defence of Heritage, an ex-culture minister in Egypt, Gaber Asfour, delves into written Arab heritage. He is one of the few critics that dedicated extensive time and effort to explore and reveal the treasures of the written heritage throughout the Arab world.

Islamists' attempts to ban the rich fable One Thousand and One Nights and other stories from Islam's early and middle ages is raised in some of Asfour's chapters.

According to Asfour, the deep creativity in authentic works of heritage can transcend time, even if it is deeply entrenched in its own time. He describes how they can reach down to the roots of humanity and are so able to touch people throughout ages with lessons in goodness and beauty, such as Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s writings. 

Heritage is at risk under rising religious currents and strict conservatives, argues Asfour in a chapter in his book. There he describes how these conservatives forbid what God has permitted, such as smiling, laughing and sarcasm.

Gaber Asfour dedicated In Defence of Heritage to Judge Sayed Mahmoud Youssef, who presided over the One Thousand and One Nights court case and dismissed the request to ban the book.

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