Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Censorship Saudi Style

I read quite a few amusing Saudi blogs recounting attempts by the authorities to stamp out 'vice'. Censorship is one of their biggest weapons in the pursuit of this goal. This goes so far as opening your mail and confiscating/defacing any inappropriate contents. One woman repeatedly got the adverts in her monthly edition of Vanity Fair blacked out with marker pen when they contained less than fully-covered women while even food shipped into the country is tasted (sorry, tested) to see whether its halal or not.

Yet it's funny what slips through the net. A good friend of mine, living in a rather conservative part of the country, decided she'd like to read Rushdie's The Satanic Verses to see what the fuss was all about (she later decided it was one of the worst books she'd ever read, but at least she got the chance to see for herself: personally, I think it's rather interesting, if on the long side). So she ordered a copy off Amazon. Much to her amazement it turned up, opened but UNTOUCHED, at her front door not long afterwards. Needless to say Rushdie, along with Danish bacon, is uber-haram in Saudi. So how had that happened?

Easy, said her father. Cute cover, no pictures, English title, illiterate vice-squad.
On a more serious note I firmly believe that there are few good philosophical reasons for allowing censorship on the grounds of blasphemy, or disrespect to religions. That is particularly true with respect to fiction, and art of all kinds. I will publish my views on this (and the Rushdie case) in greater depth soon.

All this was just an excuse to ask you to help protect the right to free speech by clicking on the icon of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist being held hostage in Gaza. You can sign a petition calling for his release.


Michael said...

Signed the petition.
Since you're planning to go to the Middle East, remind me to tell you once some of my 'how do I smuggle things in and out' stories.

Consider This said...

Frankly, Michael, with your reserve of travellers tales you need a blog of your own! Instant hit I would say. Thanks for signing the petition...