Artist: Haydar Haydar
Confronting Bodies: Egypt’s Socialist Labor Party; Egypt's Islamist group; the rector of Al-Azhar University
Date of Action: 2000
Specific Location: Egypt
Description of Artwork: In 1983, Haydar Haydar published a novel in Syria called “A Banquet for Seaweed”. In the novel, a character says, “The divine Bedouin laws and the teaching of the Koran [are all] shit”.
Description of Incident: In 2000, Egypt’s Ministry of Culture reissued Haydar’s novel “A Banquet for Seaweed” as part of a modern Arab classics series that it was sponsoring. In a distorting review of the Egyptian edition of Haydar’s novel, “al-Shaab”, a publication of Egypt’s Socialist Labor Party, the columnist Muhammad Abbass called the book an insult to Islam, resulting in one of the biggest riots Egypt had seen in the prior ten years. The police were called out to calm the protestors, which they did with tear gas, baton charges and rubber bullets.
Results of Incident: Legal action was taken against the government officials responsible for publishing the novel and there were calls for the assassination—or execution by beheading—of the novelist. In addition, the rector of Al-Azhar University called for a public burning of the book in a public place. The primary reason for this uproar is that Abbas left out an ellipsis in a passage he quoted from the novel. This omission resulted in the words Koran and shit being placed next to each other, and since it is unnecessary to use the verb “to be” in Arabic—they say, in other words, the sky blue rather than the sky is blue—Abbas’ omission made it look like the author was calling the Koran a piece of shit.
Source: website: http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:QsaM1Gg3yw0J:faculty.ncc.edu/LinkClick.aspx%3Flink%3Dhaydar%2Bhaydar%2Bpacket%2Bassignment.doc%26tabid%3D2015%26mid%3D2331+Haydar+Haydar+egypt+writer&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1 ; and, Democracy Frontline at: htt
Submitted By: National Coalition Against Censorship