Saturday, March 31, 2007

Important Anniversary

Today marks the first anniversary of the Miracle off Ice. This year's inaugural celebration is taking place in Charleston, SC. Posting may be limited.

The UN Censorship Council

The UN Human Rights Council was created in 2006 as a replacement for the thoroughly discredited UN Commission on Human Rights. The commission regularly refused to condemn blatant human rights violations by various dictatorships, which is largely explained by the fact that dictatorial regimes made up a major part of the commission's membership. The new Human Rights Council was supposed to change things for the better. Sadly, the more things change...

The council's current session provides a case in point. First the group decided to refrain from examining the dismal human rights records of Iran and Uzbekistan. Then, the council passed a resolution on the situation in Darfur that refused to blame the Sudanese regime for instigating the genocide in that region.

Finally, to top things off, the Human Rights Council decided to come out in favor of censorship. According to the Associated Press:

Islamic countries pushed through a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on Friday urging a global prohibition on the public defamation of religion, a response largely to the furor last year over caricatures published in a Danish newspaper of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The statement proposed by the Organization of Islamic Conference addressed what it called a "campaign" against Muslim minorities and the Islamic religion around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The resolution, which was opposed by European and a number of other non-Muslim countries, "expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations."

It makes no mention of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism or any other religion besides Islam, but urges countries "to take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement and religious hatred, hostility, or violence."

In other words, a majority of the member states on the UN Human Rights Council support limiting free expression. This is not encouraging.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Freeing Kareem

Tom G. Palmer has a great article at National Review Online about imprisoned Egyptian blogger Abdul Kareem Nabil Soliman:

Four years in prison for blogging: three of them for inciting “hatred of Islam” and one for “insulting the president.” That’s the sentence handed down by an Egyptian judge to a young Egyptian blogger, Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, generally known in the blogosphere as “Kareem.” On his website, he had criticized his university, Al Azhar, for being close minded and for suppressing thought — for which he was expelled. He called Egypt’s president Mubarak a dictator — for which he was arrested and imprisoned. As he noted, “I broke the widespread traditions in the Great Jail of the Arab Republic of Egypt!” For that he was sent to jail.

A more sensitive issue is that he openly criticized the practices of the founders of Islam and argued that they were not models for modern life. His remarks inflamed radical political Islamists. They even offended some who have defended him, although that has not dampened their resolve. His two staunchest defenders are Dalia Ziada and Esraa Al Shafei, two young Muslim women who have worked tirelessly in behalf of his freedom. Both are outspoken in defense both of their religion and of Kareem’s right to be critical of it.

Please read the rest:

Getting Kareem Freed

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Moderate Muslims Threatened in Canada

Earlier this month, the CBC ran a report on how moderate Canadian Muslims are subjected to harassment and intimidation for speaking out against extremists. The leaders of a moderate organization called the Muslim Canadian Congress were prominently featured in the CBC story. Now, two of the MCC's leaders have received a death threat. The Toronto Star provides the details:

A message left Monday on the voice mail of the secretary general for the Muslim Canadian Congress warned that organization members must "cease from your campaign of smearing Islam" or "I will slaughter you."

The message mentioned congress founder Tarek Fatah and current president Farzana Hassan-Shahid by name. Both have openly criticized the politicization of Islam and alleged influence of Iran and Saudi Arabia in Canadian mosques.

It's not the first time they've been threatened. Hassan-Shahid said since publishing her book Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today, she has been heckled and had her home vandalized.

"But swearing by God that `I will do this and slaughter all of you,' that's pretty chilling," Hassan-Shahid said yesterday.

(Link courtesy of LGF)

MCC Secretary General Munir Pervaiz told the CBC that, while members of the organization have been harassed before, an actual death threat is a first:

The congress has been targeted for its moderate beliefs before, but never in such a direct fashion, Pervaiz said. Members have had their homes and cars damaged after sharing their opinions publicly.

"We want as many people to know that such a problem exists in Canada," Pervaiz said. "People thought we were exaggerating, but this now kind of confirms and proves the problem exists."

(Link courtesy of Jihad Watch)

The MCC web site has the actual recording of the death threat available for listening. It is both sad and frightening that, even in Canada, Muslim moderates cannot speak out without being subjected to threats and intimidation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Additional Reflections

I've said just about all I have to say in response to John Berry's attack on Annoyed Librarian and myself. Before I move on to far more important topics, a few final thoughts:

-In the comments section of Berry's post, Kathleen de la Pena McCook goes off on a totally unhinged multi comment rant directed at AL and myself. After Stephen Denney pointed out that I do, in fact, blog under my own name, McCook retracted her comments as far as they were directed towards me. Annoyed Librarian has since posted a response of her own.

-In his comment, Stephen said that I am an Iraq War veteran. I am extremely grateful for his support, but this is not correct. I am a soldier in the Army National Guard, but have yet to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. I have noted this in Berry's comments section.

-In her latest post, Annoyed Librarian says the following about me:

First, the obvious. As one of the other commenters points out, Heretical Librarian isn't anonymous. He's a brave soul who says what he believes and doesn't have the bullhorn of the Library Journal or the security of being a "distinguished" professor.

Again, while I deeply appreciate the sentiments and thank AL for her support, I do need to take issue with her description of me as "a brave soul". The numerous active and reserve component soldiers who have risked their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan are brave souls. People like Rafiq Tagi or Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, who risk imprisonment or death for expressing their views, are brave souls. I risk nothing more than having mean things said about me on web sites, not quite the same thing. Besides, my job situation is secure enough.

Anyway, time to get back to more important matters.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Reflections of a Conservative "Librarian"

Courtesy of Annoyed Librarian, I find that I have finally fulfilled my ambition of pegging the John Berry Sputter-o-Meter:

Conservatives, blogging away as "librarians,"” still try to convince us that ALA has no business taking stands on issues that are not specifically related to libraries, although it is difficult to know where to draw the line between what is a library issue and what is not. The most recent rant about this was from the Heretical Librarian, that conservative librarian who worries that he will become "“a mirror image of Mark Rosenzweig."” He isn't a "“mirror image"” but he's no less personal, political, or ideological than Mark in his posts as a "librarian."” He cites the Annoying Librarian, who in her own anonymous blog ranted on about how how those of us on the left always mix up the personal and political. I have to confess, I'm guilty of that. As long as I have been a member of ALA, more than 30 years on the record, and by recollection since the wonderful Sixties, ALA has frequently taken stands on political issues. Many of those ALA positions would not have measured up to the terms Heretical or Annoyed would apply to what ALA is allowed to speak about.

The post that has Mr. Berry in such a tizzy is here, if you want to read it. I'll deal with his core argument below. In the meantime, here are a few random reactions to this paragraph:

-The only reason I choose to blog as a conservative "librarian" is because of people like Berry, Mitch Freedman, etc. using ALA, listservs, and various other professional forums to shove their personal politics in my face.

-"Annoying Librarian"? Dude, did you actually think that up on your own?

-Every time some aging radical goes on about "the wonderful Sixties", I think of that hilarious Freedom Rock commercial. "Hey man, is that Freedom Rock?" "Yeah man!" "Well, turn it up, man!"

-Actually, it's ALA's constitution which limits what "ALA is allowed to speak about":

The object of the American Library Association shall be to promote library service and librarianship.

The fact that Berry takes pride at having politicized ALA despite what the organization's constitution says speaks for itself.

Now, on to his second paragraph, which I will discuss in detail:

I look at it this way. ALA is not a library. ALA is a membership organization, and if those members or their representatives on the ALA Council decide that war, in Iraq or Vietnam, is an issue about which they wish to take a stand, and that it is related to librarianship, that is legitimate. Indeed, war is a library issue, as is any other issue that raises questions about how we will allocate public resources.

People involved in ALA have the "right" to do anything they want within the laws of the United States. If they really want to draw such an absurdly broad view of "library issues" that virtually any topic is considered relevant, go right ahead. All critics like myself do is point out that taking such stands makes a mockery of the organization's commitment to be a non-partisan professional association, and help turn our profession into an ideological echo chamber. I suspect that Berry regards such consequences as being features, not bugs.

Of course, that begs the issue of whether or not the views of ALA members are really being represented by some of the resolutions passed by ALA Council. The organization has over 66,000 members. If you were to ask them their opinions on the conflict in Iraq, for example, the results would be far closer to Berry's views than to mine. If you were to ask them if they wanted ALA to take a position on Iraq, I think the results might be somewhat different.

As Berry himself has noted, only a "relatively small percentage of the total eligible members vote in ALA elections". So, are ALA Council's resolutions on political issues really reflective of what the membership wants, or are they simply indicative of an ideologically driven minority using the organization as its own political plaything?

I just can'’t understand why right wingers like Heretical and Annoyed, who constantly spout their views either anonymously or not, but always as librarians, find it wrong for ALA members to vote to do the same.

Here, Berry has deliberately blurred the distinction between speaking as a librarian and speaking as a member of a professional organization. I just hope that no one was injured while moving those goalposts. Radical leftists like Berry are perfectly free to speak as librarians, and have been doing so for many years. My objection is to their hijacking of American librarianship's largest professional association and using it as a vehicle to foist their political beliefs on the entire profession. Well, not in my name, as they say. Of course, by alienating me to the point that I quit my ALA membership, Berry and company have allowed me to save $620 over the last four years, so I'm not totally unappreciative.

Since Berry argues that ALA members have the right to be politically engaged, you would think that he also accepts their right to be apolitical. You would be mistaken:

It is important that everyone else in our society make the connection between libraries and war and the other problems we face as a society. It is just as important for us, as librarians, to make sure the people realize that while librarians practice a certain kind of neutrality on the job, they are active political people in their personal lives and in the organizations to which they belong. Librarians, as librarians, do have social responsibilities, and they are duty bound to express their views about them, either as individual librarians or as members of library associations. That is how we've always done it in this country, whether we're auto workers, migrant farm laborerers, miners, doctors, or librarians. That is the American way, after all.

(Emphasis added-DD)

This passage raises a number of questions: What if the ignorant masses let down their intellectual betters like Mr. Berry and fail to "make the connection between libraries and war"? What of class traitors and wreckers within the profession such as myself, who believe either that their is no connection or who draw a different connection than the one Berry does? Or those who define "social responsibilities" differently than he does? What about those librarians who don't want to be "active political people", and who just want to do their jobs and be the best librarians they can? Are their reeducation camps waiting in our future?

Mandating that "everyone" needs to believe what you believe, or that librarians are "duty bound" to engage in political harangues at every opportunity doesn't exactly sound like "the American way" to me. After all, I've been led to believe that dissent is patriotic.

In short, what Berry seems to be saying is that only politically committed radical leftists can be good librarians. Hence his use of scare quotes to describe conservative "librarians". The implication is that he wants a profession that preaches intellectual freedom but doesn't actually practice it.

Update: 3-26-07: The punctuation in the Berry quotes, which was not displaying properly, has been fixed.

Honoring Theo Van Gogh

Last Sunday, authorities in Amsterdam unveiled a statue honoring the memory of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh was murdered in November 2004 by Islamist fanatic Mohammed Bouyeri, in retaliation for Van Gogh's short film Submission, which discussed the mistreatment of women in Islamic society. After murdering Van Gogh, Bouyeri pinned a note to his body threatening the life of Van Gogh's collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Theo Van Gogh had many flaws, but he took an uncompromising stand on behalf of free expression and against Islamist totalitarianism. He paid for that stand with his life, and deserves to be remembered with honor.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Defending the Right to Learn

Tuesday's Christian Science Monitor had a must read story on how Afghan villagers are defending their daughters' right to be educated in the face of Taliban attacks on schools:

Atefa's dream might have ended on a bright winter morning 13 months ago.

The hazel-eyed 8-year-old still has a ways to go before she becomes a surgeon, which she confidently proclaims as her life's goal. Yet graduating from grade school is one important step – and on Feb. 10, 2006, that seemed almost impossible.

Overnight, the Medrawer Girls School was burned to a charred husk by terrorists determined to prevent local girls from reading textbooks and learning geometry. Smoke still curled above the surrounding eucalyptus grove as the students arrived for class – their hopes of an education, and the better life it promised, vanishing in the morning sunshine.

Even then, however, the village elders were beginning to formulate a decision that would change the lives of Atefa and – some would say – girls across Afghanistan. Later that day, they decided to take protection of the school into their own hands, cobbling together a corps of village volunteers that has stood watch over the now-rebuilt school every night since, sometimes armed only with spare farm tools and ancient swords passed down as family heirlooms.

There hasn't been an attack since.

Please read the rest:

Afghan villagers stand guard to protect schools

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Free Expression under Attack in Bahrain

The Perian Gulf city state of Bahrain has traditionally been an oasis of relative liberalism, especially compared with neighboring Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, Islamist members of Bahrain's elected parliament are now seeking to change this situation:

Bahraini liberals are scrambling to defend freedom of expression after the Islamist-dominated parliament voted to investigate a cultural festival for alleged breach of Muslim morality.

"This is a dangerous precedent that will take us back to the Middle Ages and the Inquisition," said theater director Khaled Al Roueie. "We're at the point of resorting to the government to protect us from the people's representatives."

Sunni and Shiite Islamists who control three-quarters of the 40 seats in parliament voted last week in favor of a motion to set up a commission of inquiry into the "Spring of Culture" festival, which runs in the small Gulf kingdom until mid-April.

Twenty-nine MPs backed the motion, charging that the festival, which is a joint venture between the government and private firms, violates Islamic morals.

They singled out a musical on a love story written by Bahraini poet Qassem Haddad, with a score from Lebanese composer Marcel Khalifeh.

To their credit, Bahraini writers and intellectuals are speaking out against this thoroughly ridiculous move:

"We have resolved to wage a battle to defend freedom of expression and creativity, and we will mobilize all intellectuals and artists to confront this precedent, which risks undermining our liberties," said Ibrahim Bu Hindi, who heads an authors' association.

The appointed upper house of parliament "must initiate a debate with the government with a view to reaching an agreement on safeguarding freedom of creativity and belief," he said.

Businessman and political activist Adel Fakhro said that parliament's unprecedented move to "put culture on trial" could usher in "a very dangerous situation in which personal freedoms are subject to the approval of parliamentary committees."

The Bahraini press has joined the fray, running editorials and interviews with thinkers and artists describing parliament's move as an attempt to "gag" citizens.

"Sirs, who appointed you guardians of the people?" Akhbar Al Khaleej editor Anwar Abdel Rahman asked Islamist lawmakers in a leader comment Saturday.

Destroying Zimbabwe's Independent Media

As the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, the regime of Robert Mugabe is responding with horrific brutality against the democratic opposition. Unfortunately, as Reporters Sans Frontieres points out, destroying the last remnants of Zimbabwe's independent media is an integral part of this campaign:

Scheming by Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is killing off the few remaining independent news media while the government-controlled Media Information Commission (MIC) continues to use obligatory press accreditation as way to pressure journalists in an entirely unacceptable fashion, Reporters Without Borders said today.

“The infiltration of the last privately-owned media by the intelligence agencies has had a disastrous impact on pluralism,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Unable to live with a free press, casting suspicion on the publications they manipulate and paying little heed to they journalists they employ, the intelligence agencies have just helped to undermine the already moribund press even further.”

The press freedom organisation added: “As for the discredited, government-dominated MIC, it continues to practice an utterly unacceptable form of blackmail on the last journalists not to have fled the country, intimidating them and threatening them with unemployment.”

With foreign media such as the BBC having long since been expelled from the country, the Mugabe regime is well on the way to monopolizing all sources of news and opinion.

Rafiq Tagi Goes on Trial

On March 19th, Azerbaijani journalist Rafiq Tagi and his editor, Samir Sadaqatoglu, went on trial for a November article he wrote that criticized the impact of Islam on Azerbaijani society. This Associated Press article offers further details:

Tagi's November article in the small newspaper Senet, edited by Huseinov, asserted that Islam has suffocated people, pulled them away from freedom and hindered humanity's development, and said the Prophet Muhammad created problems for Eastern countries.

The article sparked angry protests _ including calls for Tagi's death _ in a village near Baku whose conservative Muslim community has clashed with the authoritarian government. The case has also deepened concerns about freedom of speech in the oil-rich country.

Tagi, who was brought into the court in handcuffs, said he committed no crime.

"My article _ this was purely artistic, a literary discussion and for words one must only answer with words. It is illegal to imprison someone for their convictions," he told the court.

The AP article does a good job of pointing out the Azeri regime's hostility towards independent media. What the piece doesn't mention is the role of Iran in the Tagi affair. The Azeri Islamists who made an issue of his essay are sponsored by Iran, and three Iranian ayatollahs issued fatwas demanding that Tagi and Sadaqatoglu be murdered.

For the "crime" of writing and publishing an essay critical of Islam, Tagi and Sadaqatoglu face up to five years in prison. The Azeri regime may think that it can appease the Islamists by this step. If so, it is wrong. In the meantime, it is imperative that the US government and human rights organizations do everything they can to help Tagi and Sadaqatoglu.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Censorship by Bomb

One of the most disturbing developments of the last several years has the ability of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to cement their hold over the tribal areas of Northwest Pakistan. Just as when the Taliban ruled neighboring Afghanistan, the imposition of radical Islamist rule has been accompanied by a brutal assault on intellectual freedom. Agence France Presse reports the most recent example:

A homemade bomb in a Pakistan market damaged four music and video shops Sunday just weeks after their owners refused an order to close down from Islamic hardliners.

Police said two people - a guard and a passerby - were injured in the blast at a market in Peshawar, the largest city in the deeply conservative North West Frontier Province along the border with Afghanistan.

One of the shopowners, Bashir Khan, said that hardliners calling themselves the "Soldiers of Islam" had left him a note several weeks ago, saying that music shops in the Gulshan market should close their doors.

As the article makes clear, this was not an isolated incident:

The province has seen previous attacks on video and music shops blamed on extremists emulating the ultra-Orthodox Taliban, who ruled neighboring Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

There has been growing concern about the "Talibanization" of Pakistan and the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in tribal areas.

Last week, two men and a woman were stoned and shot to death for adultery in a tribal area.

The nascent Afghan democracy and the Musharraf regime in Pakistan are far from perfect, and each has its own intellectual freedom issues. Allowing them to be supplanted by the tribal totalitarianism of the Taliban, however, would be a major victory for radical Islamism over those Muslims who believe in free thought and expression.

An Interactive Guide to Web Censorship

A group called the Open Net Initiative has created a useful interactive map showing Internet censorship by country. Definitely worth a look.

(Link courtesy of Pajamas Media)

Taslima Nasreen Threatened with Death (Again)

Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen is one of the world's foremost victims of Islamist threats and censorship. She fled her native country in 1994 after Islamists waged an open campaign demanding her execution. She has since settled in India, where an Islamist group recently demanded her expulsion after Ms. Nasreen wrote an article condemning the veiling of women. Now, her situation has come full circle:

An Indian Muslim group has offered a Rs500,000 ($11,319) bounty for the beheading of controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen.

The president of the All India Ibtehad Council said Friday he had declared the reward for anyone who carried out the quatal (extermination) of the "notorious woman."

"Taslima has put Muslims to shame in her writing. She should be killed and beheaded and anyone who does this will get a reward from the council," Taqi Raza Khan said in a statement received in the northern city of Lucknow.

The council, based in Bareilly town also in Uttar Pradesh state, is a splinter group of the influential All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Khan said the only way the bounty would be lifted was if Nasreen "apologizes, burns her books, and leaves."

(Emphasis added-DD)

To be fair, a major Islamic seminary has condemned the fatwa, calling it "un-Islamic". However, they also echoed the demand that Ms. Nasreen be expelled from India.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hamas Unbans Speak Bird, Speak Again

The Hamas-run Palestinian Education Ministry has gone back on its decision to ban the book Speak Bird, Speak Again from Palestinian school libraries. The BBC has the details:

Officials had demanded the book, which features mild sexual references, be removed from school libraries.

It was seen as the first sign the Islamic party was keen to impose its Muslim beliefs on Palestinian society.

But Education Minister Nasser Shaer said the "tempest in a teacup" was over and the decision had been rescinded.

About 1,500 copies of the book, Speak, Bird, Speak Again were taken off the shelves in 150 school libraries in the West Bank and Gaza last month after some of the language was deemed inappropriate.

With the Palestinian Authority in a state of near civil war, it looks like the Hamas government decided that it wasn't worth alienating public opinion over a book. Of course, if the copies previously removed from libraries were destroyed, as reported earlier, lifting the ban on the book might be a moot point.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"The truth cannot be overcome"

Muslim reformer Khaleel Mohammed, in a March 6th essay originally published in the Ottawa Citizen, describes the reaction when he criticizes certain aspects of Islam:

Whenever I criticize some aspects of traditional and contemporary Islam in public, the reactions are boringly uniform. The leaders of national Islamic organizations come out with harsh denunciations of my views, while individuals within the community write to congratulate me. Some do question my motives, advising that my harsh words might add to rampant Islamophobia.

My answer is always the same: I do what I do because I see myself, especially in my role as a scholar, as being so commanded by my God, "O you who believe, be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives" (Koran 4:135).

When the Feb. 6 edition of the Citizen put my comments on its front page, the reaction was predictable. It was no less different when in March 2004, at a conference in Montreal, I made the statement that many mosques preach anti-Jewish and anti-Christian rhetoric. I was, the leaders of some Muslim organizations declared, destroying the bridges of rapprochement that had been built between communities. On these occasions I point to translations of the very first chapter of the Koran that have interpolations that preach hatred against Jews and Christians. I can quote exegete after exegete. The truth cannot be overcome.

The following passage sheds light on the climate of censorship that has been imposed in Muslim communities worldwide:

My statements to the Citizen about the backwardness of my faith community were meant to prod my co-religionists into thinking about themselves and their harsh views of the other. I don't deny for a minute that as a body of people, Muslims in Canada are among the most sophisticated citizens, the holders of degrees and some of the most demandingly intellectual professions. That, however, does not erase the pervasive religious illiteracy that, like a malignant cancer, threatens to destroy the entire corpus of what was once, and still can remain, a great religion.

Scholar Scott Appleby of Notre Dame describes "religious illiteracy" as the low-level or virtual absence of moral reflection and basic theological knowledge among faith followers that could lead to violence against perceived threats. In Islam, this is particularly applicable.

The evidence is blindingly clear: Throughout the world, Muslim intellectuals are punished for daring to criticize. Muhammad Said al-Ashmawy in Egypt is under house arrest for his own protection; Abdel Karim Soroush is beaten in Iran for daring to raise the voice of inquiry, Mahmoud Taha is killed in Sudan. Scholars Rifat Hassan, Fatima Mernissi, Abdallah an-Na'im, Mohammed Arkoun and Amina Wadud are all vilified by the imams for asking Muslims to use their intellects.

It is this ideological rigidity and intolerance in much of the Islamic world, actively fostered by Islamist states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, that lays the groundwork for jihadist extremism. In the long term, it is men and women like Mr. Mohammed who, if they succeed in establishing freedom of thought and expression in Muslim communities, will bring about the defeat of Islamist radicalism.

YouTube Unbanned

YouTube is no longer blocked in Turkey. Of course, it should never have been banned in the first place.

The Personal vs. the Political

Annoyed Librarian has yet another must read post on the border between the private and the political. Frankly, I should just give her the $500 I received for the infamous Chronicle article, because she puts things far more eloquently than I could:

How much privacy can we have if the personal and the political (and by extension the professional) are intertwined? Not much. If you value privacy, then you will not believe that the personal is the political. You will specifically believe that the two are not identical, and that there is a separation of the two absolutely necessary for peace and justice. If you believe that the personal is the political, then you believe that what you do in private is the business of politicians. That's exactly what leftists and "progressives" have been arguing since the 1960s, but there's nothing "liberal" about it.

The SRRT types aren't liberals, and they know it. They don't value privacy, because they believe the personal is the political. They value the political, and for them politics is about organizing, controlling, and manipulating people until they get their way. Leftists and "progressives" always value ideology over privacy and individual autonomy.

How does this apply to the ALA and the battles over non-library issues? It's relevant because the ALA is yet one more domain where the radicals and the "progressives" want to collapse the distinction between the personal and the political, and between the professional and the political. For them it doesn't matter that people come together in the ALA as librarians, because librarianship isn't important compared to their own political and ideological struggles. The claim that the personal is the political is never taken to mean that therefore politics is something we confine to the home and not appropriate to discuss in public. No, it always means that the "progressive" political ideology trumps your right to privacy, and that your personal and professional concerns are not important. Only politics is important.

This is an issue that I wrestle with a lot. I have my own political views, and I've chosen to express them not just as a conservative but as a conservative librarian. How do I do it without ending up as a mirror image of Mark Rosenzweig?

The answer lies in the point I tried to make in the Chronicle essay, and that AL makes above: the difference between having political views on the one hand, and injecting those views into every possible venue, no matter how unrelated to politics. It wasn't working with liberals and leftists that inspired me to invest time and energy in a cookie cutter Blogspot site: it was having liberal and left-wing politics shoved in my face in numerous professional venues that did it.

Yes, I have differences with ALA, and am not reluctant to voice them. Yes, I have a somewhat different perspective on where the threats to intellectual freedom in this world truly lie. However, these are issues that are generally considered within the purview of librarianship. Personal opinions on the Iraq War, Supreme Court appointments, etc, have no place in professional forums. If you really feel a need to speak out on these matters, join a group devoted to that purpose; or, get in on the fun and start a blog.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Background on Speak Bird,, Speak Again

Friday's Christian Science Monitor has a good article on Hamas' banning of the book Speak Bird, Speak Again from Palestinian school libraries:

While literature lovers and others on the more progressive side of Palestinian society see the order to ban the book as an attack on the cultural freedoms, the Islamist Hamas movement and its supporters see the move as a democratically endorsed step toward protecting students from "harmful" influences and "offensive" language, in the words of one leading official here.

"The book was withdrawn because of the problems with offensive language which contradicts our beliefs and morals," says Sheikh Yazid Khader, who is the director-general of the PA's Ministry of Education.

The author of the Monitor piece, Ilene R. Prusher, does a particularly good job of explaining why Hamas chose to ban the book. The passage is worth quoting for what it reveals of the totalitarian Islamist worldview:

"Our society depends on Islamic values and has for hundreds of years," continues Sheikh Khader. "Our most important objective is to make curriculum adhere to our social values."

In his viewpoint, too many Western influences are seeping into Palestinian society, and children must be better shielded from them.

"This new generation is unable to distinguish between what is harmful and what is beneficial, so we have to protect them from these harmful influences," he says. "The Israeli occupation is interested in introducing us to Western values that work to destroy our Arab and Muslim values."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Secular Palestinians are worried, with good reason, that this incident is simply the beginning of a broader attack on intellectual freedom by the Hamas government:

One of the incidents people here cite happened two years ago, when the Hamas-run municipality in the West Bank city of Qalqilya banned a cultural festival that would have including the debke, a Palestinian folk dance that includes men and women holding hands.

"We can say now that Hamas is being revealed to the Palestinian people," says Yakhlef. "I think the popularity of Hamas has dropped."

It's not the first time the PA has banned a book. In the 1990s, the works of intellectual Edward Said were banned because of his criticism of the PLO and the Oslo Peace Accords. Israel once used to censor Palestinian newspapers and periodicals. But this is the first time that a book is being taken off the shelves for something other than its political content. "Speak Bird, Speak Again," is still being used in colleges and can be purchased in stores.

Actually, that last part might not be true. According to the BBC, "the then Fatah-led education ministry removed a book from schools which contained a passage referring to boyfriends and girlfriends."

Still, it is likely that the banning of Speak Bird is just the beginning.

Censorship Vs. Decorum

Interesting thoughts by Peggy Noonan, who argues that the lack of civility in our broader political discourse, as epitomized by the likes of Ann Coulter and Bill Maher, is directly related to the rise of political correctness. Here's a key passage, you can read it all at OpinionJournal:

Our country now puts less of an emphasis on public decorum, courtliness, self-discipline, decency. America no longer says, "That's not nice." It doesn't want to make value judgments on "good" and "bad." We have come to rely on censorship to maintain decorum. We are very good at letting people know that if they say something we don't like, we'll shame them and shun them, even ruin them.

But censorship doesn't make people improve themselves; it makes people want to rebel. It tells them to toe the line or pay a price. People who are urged in the right direction and taught in the right direction will usually try to discipline and improve themselves from within. But they do not enjoy censorship from without. They fight back. They are rude in order to show they are unbroken.

This is human. And Grandma would have understood this, too.

I think the atmosphere of political correctness is now experienced by normal people--not people who speak on TV, but normal people--as so oppressive, so demanding of constant self-policing, that when someone says something in public that is truly not nice, not nice at all, they can't help but feel that they are witnessing a prison break.

As long as political correctness reigns, the more antic among us will try to break out with great streams of Tourette's-like forbidden words and ideas.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Moderate Muslims Silenced in Canada

Earlier this week, CBC's The National ran an excellent report on how moderate Muslims in Canada face violence and harassment at the hands of Islamists after speaking out against extremism. The report is available online, via this post at Jihad Watch, and is well worth watching.

The second half of the program is especially interesting. It notes that moderate Muslims, under the rubric of the Muslim Canadian Congress, are asking the Canadian government to ban the efforts of Islamists to label them as "apostates".

Normally, I am opposed to "hate speech" laws, even when applied to Islamists. However, this is one instance where an exception should be made. Apostasy, according to the Islamist interpretation of Islam, is a crime punishable by death. Therefore, when Islamists label a moderate Muslim as an apostate, they are in effect inciting for that person to be murdered. Such accusations have become a common way for Islamists to silence moderates and reformers. This is not free speech, and should not be tolerated in a democratic society.

Empowering moderate Muslims to speak out is essential to both the protection of intellectual freedom and the defeat of jihadist terrorism. The Canadian government must protect Muslim reformers from Islamist violence and intimidation.

"We cannot leave Mutanabi Street. Outside of Mutanabi Street, we feel lost."

Today's Washington Post has a moving article on the aftermath of the horrific suicide bombing of Baghdad's Mutanabi Street book market:

Mutanabi Street had long been considered "the unifier of Iraq," said Khalid Hussein, a bookseller with cropped hair and thick forearms. Before the bombing, he said, this was "the only place that hadn't been touched by sectarianism."

The evidence was lodged in the dense heaps of twisted metal and the mangled cars. Here, a page from a Bible. There, a page from a Koran. Tattered posters of Imam Ali, Shiite Islam's revered saint, littered the ground near the 8-foot-wide crater left by the bomb. The shop that sold Wahhabi Sunni literature was in ruins.

The day after the attack, blackened body parts covered with cardboard and pink stationery sat near a storefront. A note read: "The remains of Hadi Hassan. Hummus seller." He was a Shiite from Najaf, said those who knew him.

A few inches away, a dusty, charred cellphone lay next to an empty yellow plastic bag and a shard of burned flesh stuck to cloth. A note read: "This is the only remains from this person. Everyone is going back to God."

By Friday, the body parts had vanished. Around Khalid Hussein were fathers and sons, strangers and friends. The smells of smoke and burned paper lingered. Scavengers looked for loot, but nobody paid attention.

Please read the rest. Also, LISNews has some additional links about the history of Mutanabi Street.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this atrocity and their families. I just hope the jihadist savages who carried it out are brought to account in a suitable manner.

Friday, March 09, 2007

No YouTube in Turkey

A Turkish court has issued a ruling banning access to YouTube in that country. This article from Wednesday's Times of London has the details:

A court in Istanbul has issued an order denying access to the video-sharing website YouTube. The state owned Turk Telecom implemented the ban today after an escalating dispute between Greek and Turkish users of the site.

The court order was issued yesterday and most internet users logging onto the site in Turkey are met with a holding page with a Turkish message, which translates as: “Access to this site has been denied by court order ! ...”.

Greek and Turkish YouTube users have been trading video insults over the past few months, attracting much coverage in the Turkish press. Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality.

It is illegal to criticise either Ataturk or Turkishness in Turkey and the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul acted despite YouTube’s agreement to take down the offending videos.

On Thursday, Reporters Sans Frontieres released this update:

An Istanbul court yesterday ordered Internet Service Providers to block access to the US video-sharing website Youtube because of content deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state. After the site agreed to remove the offending videos, the same court lifted the order (but it was still blocked at 1515 GMT today).

It will be interesting to see if the ban is, in fact, lifted. Even if it is, this incident raises yet more questions about the status of intellectual freedom in Turkey.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Internet Filtering, Islamist Style

American librarians concerned with censorship issues might want to devote some of their attention to the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority. Not only do you have books being banned from school libraries, you also have a very unique form of Internet filtering being implemented:

A note stuck to the door of Mohammed al-Shaer's tiny music shop warned him several months ago that selling tapes and CDs of popular Arabic music was "haram," or forbidden by Islam.

He paid no heed until a bomb went off outside his business this week apparently the work of what Palestinian security officials now suspect may be a secret "vice squad" of Muslim militants.

"If they cared about their religion, they would (instead) stop people from killing each other," Al-Shaer, 19, said angrily.

In recent months, about three dozen Internet cafes, music shops and even pharmacies have been attacked, with assailants detonating small bombs outside businesses at night, causing damage but no injuries.

It appears that the radical Islamists involved are seeking their own solution to the issue of web pornography:

In deeply conservative Gaza, devout Muslims would consider Internet cafes to be dens of vice because young men are known to view pornography there. Music shops could be a target because some believers fear pop music distracts from prayers. The targeting of pharmacies remains a mystery, though, officials say.

Fears of an Islamic cultural crackdown have risen since the Islamic Hamas took over the government a year ago after winning an election. On Monday, Education Ministry officials said they removed an anthology of folk tales from school libraries because of explicit sexual language, destroying 1,500 books.

Entertainment in Gaza is extremely limited there are no movie houses or theaters. Surfing the Net and listening to music are among the only outlets for the young, and hundreds of small Internet cafes and music shops operate across Gaza, some even near mosques.

As noted above, it isn't just the Internet that the Islamists are trying to suppress. They're not exactly music fans either:

Several music shops in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, have received warnings in recent months not to sell pop music.

Khamis Abdeen, 20, said he removed most tapes and CDs but left several dozen tapes with the latest songs on the shelves of his family's shop, hoping he could sell them quickly. At the beginning of the year, the shop was attacked, damaging $5,000 worth of merchandise, he said. Abdeen has stopped selling tapes.

Of course, none of this will get a fraction of the attention that Scrotumgate received. After all, Palestinian Islamists can't be considered a true threat to intellectual freedom until they say bad things about The Higher Power of Lucky.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Speak Bird, Speak Again

Speak Bird, Speak Again, is the title of the book banned from Palestinian school libraries by Hamas. The book is a collection of Palestinian folklore. According to Pierre Akel, "(t)he Hamas minister of education claims the book (in its arabic translation) is «full of sexual expressions». He is probably referring to five tales alluding to «sexual awakening and courtship»". Akel provides a summary of these five stories at Middle East Transparent.

It would be nice if American librarians could make this incident at least as much of a cause celebre as they did The Higher Power of Lucky kerfuffle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Details on the Riyadh Book Fair

UPI provides further details on the attempted book seizures at the Riyadh Book Fair:

Saudi Arabia's semi-official Al Watan daily said Thursday the religious police tried to remove exhibited books on love and different religions at the Riyadh International Book Fair that opened Tuesday.

The paper quoted an Egyptian publisher as saying a group of young local men, accompanied by a mutawa, or government-authorized religious police enforcing Islamic law, entered his booth and asked the publisher to remove some books.

"This happened without official paperwork and without officials, as they came in and began choosing titles they wanted removed," said the publisher, who was not identified. "The problem is, they didn't even bother to read the inside of the books, in which one of them even defends Islam, but its title was about Christ; so they asked for their removal" from the exhibition, he added.

A Lebanese publisher also complained about intrusion by some visitors who criticized the books and demanded they be taken off the shelves.

The Mutawa are the public enforcers of Saudi Arabia's strict Wahhabist form of Islam. They are most infamous for a March 2002 incident in which they refused to let teenage girls flee their burning school because they weren't wearing their robes and headscarves. Fifteen girls died. It should come as little surprise, then, that the Mutawa would be up for some good old fashioned book banning.

"Disillusioned" by Michael Moore

The Sunday Times reports that Michael Moore is about to get a taste of his own medicine, and he's less than happy about it:

THE hunter has become the hunted. Michael Moore, the celebrated left-wing film-maker, has become the unwilling subject of a new documentary that raises damaging questions about the credibility of his work.

The director and star of successful documentaries such as Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore has repeatedly been accused by his right-wing enemies of distorting or manipulating the material in his films. On his website he dismisses his critics as “wacko attackos”.

Yet the latest assault on Moore’s film-making techniques has come from an unexpected quarter. In Manufacturing Dissent, a documentary to be shown for the first time at a Texas film festival on Saturday, a pair of left-wing Canadian film-makers take Moore to task for what they describe as a disturbing pattern of fact-fudging and misrepresentation.

“When we started this project we hoped to have done a documentary that celebrated Michael Moore. We were admirers and fans,” said Debbie Melnyk, who made the film with her husband, Rick Caine. “Then we found out certain facts about his documentaries that we hadn’t known before. We ended up very disappointed and disillusioned.”

(Emphasis added-DD)

You can read more about Manufacturing Dissent courtesy of the International Herald Tribune. You can see the trailer here.

Hmmm, I wonder if they'll show this film at ALA Annual, like they did Fahrenheit 911? Somehow, I doubt it.

Murdered for Buying Books

The latest bit of heroism from the Iraqi insurgency: a car bomb attack on a Baghdad book market:

Mutanabbi Street - named after a renowned classical Arabic poet - is an area of mixed Shia- and Sunni-owned businesses and customers.

A witness quoted by Reuters news agency said there were women and children among the casualties. People drove the injured to hospital in private cars without waiting for ambulances.

"There was so much smoke that I was vomiting," said the witness, who was in a bookshop when its windows were blown out by the blast.

"Papers from the book market were floating through the air like leaflets dropped from a plane," said Naim Daraji, a civil servant quoted by Associated Press.

"Pieces of flesh and the remains of books were scattered everywhere," he said.

Murdered people and destroyed books: truly symbolic of the future Iraq the jihadists have in mind.

Crackdown in Venezuela

Writing for the Weekly Standard, Blanquita Cullum offers a good overview of how Venezuela's demagogic president, Hugo Chavez, is cracking down on his country's non-governmental press outlets:

The move against RCTV is just one of many that the Chávez government has taken against Venezuela's independent media. The country's 2005 penal code mandates prison sentences for anyone who "offends with his words or in writing or in any other way disrespects the President of the Republic or whoever is fulfilling his duties," who makes comments that "expose another person to contempt or public hatred," or who "causes public panic or anxiety" with reports deemed inaccurate.

In conversations with independent Venezuelan journalists and media owners during a visit to Caracas early this year, I was told that the Chávez government is gradually silencing critical media. The government imposes punitive taxes and fines, arbitrarily applies laws and regulations, and brings charges of criminal defamation. The government, they said, delayed renewing licenses for various stations until after last December's presidential election as a way to hold networks "over the precipice" and thereby force them to exercise self-censorship. They said that by refusing to renew the license of RCTV, Chávez is sending a message to all other media that he has the power to do what he wants with Venezuela's radio and TV stations.

Journalists from privately owned independent media do not have access to cover government hearings, I was told. Chávez does not give interviews and will not allow local journalists to attend and cover events at the presidential palace. Only the government's broadcast network, Venezolana de Televisión, has access. The government does not allow other officials to be interviewed. And the government requires independent media to broadcast five hours' worth of programming every week chosen by the Ministry of Communication.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Hasta La Vista, Free Speech

Monday, March 05, 2007

The St. Petersburg Declaration

Today was the last day of the Secular Islam Summit in St. Petersburg, FL. The purpose of this two day forum was to help organize reformist Muslims in their pursuit of the "secularization and liberalization of Islamic thought and practice". Among the speakers at the summit was Irshad Manji, who is reported to be speaking at ALA Annual this June.

The main product of the Secular Islam Summit was a shared statement of principles known as the St. Petersburg Declaration. This statement begins as follows:

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

You can read the entire text of the declaration at the summit blog. I just dare to hope that this will one day be remembered as a key event in the painstaking evolution of the Muslim world away from intolerance and fanaticism.

Insult Mugabe, Get Expelled

One of the founders of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has been expelled from the movement for criticizing Robert Mugabe in his autobiography:

A meeting of party leaders in Edgar Tekere's home district of Manicaland in eastern Zimbabwe, "unreservedly condemned" Tekere's book, "A Lifetime of Struggle," which was published in January and is selling briskly, according to the Sunday Mail.

In his book, Tekere said Mugabe lacked the charisma to support the founders of the current ruling party when they broke away from a liberation group. He said Mugabe did not favor the split, contrary to official party history that holds that Mugabe led the schism.

But it is Tekere's more personal accusations that have angered the autocratic Mugabe, the country's only leader since the country's independence from Britain in 1980, and his close colleagues. Mugabe himself has dismissed the autobiography as the work of an unbalanced mind.


The autobiography "clearly and explicitly denigrates and vilifies" Mugabe, the newspaper quoted provincial Zimbabwe African Nation Union Patriotic chairman Tinaye Chigudu as saying.

Real School Library Censorship

Now that the pseudo-controversy of Scrotumgate has finally subsided, the radical Islamists of Hamas have thoughtfully decided to show everyone what actual school library censorship looks like. The AP has the details:

The Hamas-run Education Ministry has ordered an anthology of Palestinian folk tales pulled from school libraries and destroyed, reportedly over mild sexual innuendo, officials said Monday, in the most direct attempt by the Islamic militants to impose their beliefs on Palestinian society.

The book ban angered and worried many Palestinians, who long feared that Hamas would use its victory in last year's parliamentary election to remake the Palestinian territories according to its hardline interpretation of Islam.

West Bank novelist Zakariya Mohammed said he feared Hamas' decision to ban 'Speak Bird, Speak Again,' a collection of 45 folk tales, was only the beginning and urged intellectuals to take action.

"If we don't stand up to the Islamists now, they won't stop confiscating books, songs and folklore," he said.

The Education Ministry declined immediate comment. A senior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters, confirmed that 1,500 copies of the book had been pulled from school libraries and destroyed.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Link courtesy of Dhimmi Watch.

I wonder just how many of those who were so worked up over Scrotumgate will now condemn this action. Considering the widespread pro-Palestinian sentiment among the library left, I'm not optimistic.

Hentoff on ALA and Cuba: Part II

Nat Hentoff returns to the topic of Cuba in his weekly column, and takes on ALA Council and ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom for their ridiculous inaction:

Although the American Library Association proclaims its commitment to the "Freedom to Read" everywhere, its leadership abandons Cuba's independent librarians whom Fidel Castro had locked into his gulags, under brutal conditions, because of their courageous insistence that the people of Cuba should also have the freedom to read books the dictatorship has banned. A majority of the ALA's rank-and-file members disagree with their leadership.

Among the many organizations demanding that Castro and his successors release these courageous Cubans -- who have opened their homes and libraries to offer books censored in the Cuban state libraries -- are such groups as the library associations of the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. All these librarians, finally freed from communism, agree with their colleagues in the Polish Library Association, who say in their declaration: "The actions of the Cuban authorities relate to the worst traditions of repressing the freedom of thought and expression." Also calling for the liberation of Castro's many prisoners of conscience, including the librarians, are the Organization of American States, Amnesty International and Freedom House.

However, the top officials of the American Library Association -- as well as the majority of its Governing Council -- speak derisively of these "so-called librarians" in Castro's gulags.

Please read the rest.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Section 215 Debated on the View

Not quite Stone vs. Posner, but interesting to see the Section 215 debate seep into popular culture.

Of course, I'm mostly in agreement with Dennis Miller, and he's correct that Section 215 has almost certainly never been used in a library setting. (The fabled Connecticut case involved Section 505 of the Patriot Act, and related to a user who sent an anonymous threatening e-mail to the FBI from a library computer)

I'm not a Rosie O'Donnell fan to begin with, so I wasn't surprised by her truly moronic comment that "the Patriot Act has robbed us of our civil liberties", and her use of the butchered Ben Franklin quote. Yet at the same time, her remarks are reflective of how the fearmongering and hysteria generated by many Patriot Act opponents, especially in our profession, have now permeated the broader discourse.

Cuba Update: 3-2-07

A couple recent items of interest regarding Fidel Castro's Caribbean paradise:

-Last week, the Cuban government banned three foreign journalists from the country. The Associated Press provides the details:

The Chicago Tribune said correspondent Gary Marx, based in the country since 2002, was told Wednesday that his stories were too negative. His press credentials were not renewed during an annual process, and he and his family were given 90 days to leave Cuba, the newspaper said.

The Mexican newspaper El Universal said Cesar Gonzalez Calero, its Havana reporter since 2003, was told this week his credentials would not be renewed. Authorities told him his reporting was "not the most convenient for the Cuban government," the reporter said, adding he would be allowed to remain in Cuba as the husband of a Spanish journalist.

The British Broadcasting Corp. was "talking to the authorities in Havana about the status of its Cuba correspondent after his accreditation was withdrawn," spokeswoman Karen Rosine said Friday in a statement from London. Without naming correspondent Stephen Gibbs, Rosine said he "remains in Cuba, pending the outcome of these discussions."

As you might expect, Reporters Sans Frontieres and the Committee to Protect Journalists are less than satisfied with this decision.

-As unhappy as those three foreign journalists might be, they're still far better off than Cuba's aspiring independent journalists, such as Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez:

Reporters Without Borders voiced surprise today at the 22-month prison sentence which Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, a correspondent of the Miami-based Payolibre and Nueva Prensa Cubana websites and the US government-funded Radio Martí, received yesterday from a Havana court on a charge of “disturbing the peace,” and said it hoped the 19 months he has already spent in detention will be deducted from the time he has to serve.

“Such a severe sentence for ‘disturbing the peace’ is in itself surprising,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Guerra was held for 19 months without being charged before being tried. We obviously hope this long period already spent behind bars will be discounted from his sentence and that he will be released soon.”

The organisation added: “Prior to his arrest, Guerra was repeatedly harassed because of his journalistic activities, and the peaceful demonstration in which he took part on 13 July 2005 was just used as a pretext for imprisoning him.”

According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), Guerra, 28, was one of five dissidents who appeared before a municipal court in Havana yesterday. They received sentences ranging from 22 months to two years in prison for “disturbing the peace” by staging a peaceful demonstration on 13 July 2005 to commemorate the shipwreck 11 years earlier of five Cuban “balseros” who had been trying to reach Florida by sea.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

DIY Book Banning in Saudi Arabia

According to the MEMRI Blog, visitors to a recent Saudi book fair took matters into their own hands after finding themselves offended by some of the offerings on display:

Several Saudi publishers complained that visitors to the international book fair in Riyadh tried to remove books about love and about religions from the booths. One of the publishers commented: "The problem is that they have not read the books. The title of one of the books refers to Jesus, but it [is actually a book] that defends Islam. [Those visitors] thought it was a book against Islam, and that's why they tried to remove it without permission."