A life sentence handed to a Qatari poet has all the hallmarks of an outrageous betrayal of free speech, Amnesty International has said.
Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, was tried on charges of incitement to overthrow the ruling system , and insulting the Amir .
He was arrested in November 2011 following the publication of his Jasmine Poem , which broadly criticized governments across the Gulf region, saying we are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite .
It is deplorable that Qatar, which likes to paint itself internationally as a country that promotes freedom of expression, is indulging in what appears to be such a flagrant abuse of that right, said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's
Middle East and North Africa Director.
Observers were not allowed to enter the court, and al-Ajami himself was not present at the sentencing. He is expected to appeal.
100 Iranian writers, poets, and translators have called for an end to book censorship.
The call was made in an open letter published on December 2 on the Pendar website that calls for an end to the requirement that writers obtain authorization from the Culture Ministry before publishing.
The needed authorization is increasingly difficult to obtain, according to writers and publishers, who say censorship has intensified in the Islamic republic in recent years.
The group of intellectuals includes prominent poet Simin Behbahani and writer Mohammad Ghaed. In the letter, they write:
Iran is one of the rare countries in the beginning of the 21st century where authors have to ask for a license from the state in order to publish their books, even though the requirement is not stated in the constitution.
In reality, this method amounts to hostage taking of freedom of expression, creativity, and the livelihood of writers by the government in order to impose its ideas on the authors.
The call for an end to book censorship is likely to fall on deaf ears among Iranian authorities who are openly supportive of censorship. Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini has been quoted as saying that censoring books is not an obstacle but a
Thai book seller Se-ed has demanded that publishers put clear warnings of adult content on the cover of books dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LBGT) or sexually explicit content.
According to Isra News Agency the Se-Ed letter asks publishing houses to reconsider or screen books with suggestive content, as follows:
Deviant sexual behaviour
Sex in public locations
Sexual abuse of non-spouses, children, youth and women, and incest (presumably the sexual abuse of spouses is considered to be fine)
Arousing graphic details of sexual intercourse
The company threatens to return books that do not comply with these warning guidelines.
According to the Isra report, the letter has met with strong criticism from social groups who claim to be writers and LBGT activists. They say that Se-ed's requirements are too broad, particularly the first rule which clearly discriminates
against homosexuality. The groups are now organising a petition on social media against the bookstore. More than 130,000 people have already clicked like on their cause. The group are promoting the banner: We are against the banning of
LGBT literature by Se-ed bookstores .
Wiroj Lakkanaadisorn, representative from Se-ed, said the company had no intention of censoring books or halting sales. Instead, the letter aimed to bring distributors on board with a plan to separate books in a category of children's literature
from those in a category of erotic literature. The company had received complaints from parents that some children's books actually contained erotic content, and this was not clear from the book's cover.
Europa Editions, a publisher of world literature, wrote on their Facebook page that one of their novels, The Proof of the Honey by Salwa Al Neimi, has been removed from the iTunes bookstore due to the image on its cover.
The erotic novel discusses the role of sex in modern Arabic society, and its cover features the backside of a reclining, naked woman. This may seem worthy of removal, but, as Europa Editions points out, classical nudes by Ingres, Renoir, and
Botticelli, not to mention photography by Man Ray, are not deemed inappropriate by Apple, nor are modern books with similar covers.
The Proof of the Honey has been banned in the author's home country of Syria as well.
For that reason, publishers such as Melville House have called this censorship particularly appalling. Melville House also notes that the timing of the removal is peculiar: the book had previously been available in the iTunes store since
A Danish author's ebooks documenting freewheeling hippie nudity have been rejected from Apple's iBookstore in that country, even after the author and publisher covered up the offending naughty bits -- with images of ripe red apples.
At issue are two ebooks for the iPhone and iPad. These feature 14 images from acclaimed photographer Gregers Nielsen.
Perhaps the choice of apples rather than neutral black blocks offended Apple's pride as much as its prudery
Knudsen's Hippie Company first tried to get uncensored version of the two ebooks Hippie 1 and Hippie 2 into Apple's iBookstore, but as Hippie Company reported in a press release, Apple required the images to be censored. The
publisher then did so by placing red apples over the exposed breasts, penises, and what have you, then resubmitted the two ebooks.
Apple then accepted them, and put them up on its Denmark iBookstore. However, Hippie Company's witty censorship methodology was apparently not appreciated: after four days, they were removed without explanation
Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson and Russ Braun's The Boys is a comic book series that makes a point out of mining the darker underbelly of the superhero genre, in the process exposing more violent and sexual elements than many are
comfortable with... including, it seems, one Middle Eastern country which has apparently banned the series after a reader tried to have copies shipped to her.
The Qatar Ministry of Culture have confiscated a shipment of the books, labeling it sexual material and, as such, too offensive to be allowed into the country.
The recipient went to the Ministry of Culture and found The Boys now live in a box labeled BANNED. The authorities pointed out the pages that they found offensive (all of them).
Two days after Cinquante nuances de Grey, the French translation of Fifty Shades Of Grey, was released, the erotic novel has become the fastest selling book in the country's publishing history.
The astonishing sales figures - of around 75,000 every day - come after the book was panned by French critics as crass pseudo-porn that reads like a Mills and Boon novel. One high-brow reviewer wrote: It's as close to literature as
Whiskas cat food is to gastronomy.
A spokesman for FNAC, which accounts for around a fifth of all book sales in France, said:
It is amazingly popular. We have never stocked a book that has sold so fast.
We sold 15,000 copies on the day it was released. In some shops there were just none left.
South Korea has lifted a month long ban on the Marqais de Sade's novel 120 Days of Sodom after a national censorship board gave the book another read.
The 1785 book features extreme sadism and torture. It hit South Korean bookshelves in August after a Korean translation was published. Some protestors then started a petition against its obscene and sexual content.
The novel was banned Sept. 6 by the country's Publication Ethics Commission accusing it of triggering ... violent excitement.
But following an outcry from the publisher over freedom of expression, the commission reread the book. In a meeting with Korean academics and novelists, they recognized its literary value and lifted the ban on Oct. 11.
Commission official Jang Tag-Hwan said Monday the group decided that the work also explored hard truths about mankind and attempted to delve into the inner side of human greed.
Back in August The Drum revealed that animal rights activists were calling for country life magazines such as Shooting Times and The Field to be relegated to the top shelf of magazine racks.
Britain's largest newsagent, WH Smith, has now decided to introduce an over-14s age limit on magazines including the Shooting Times . A W H Smith spokesman said:
As part of our commitment to operate our business responsibly, we have a till prompt on shooting titles. It asks our store teams to check that the customer is 14 years old or over, based on this being the legal age at which someone can possess a
Some sports enthusiasts have questioned the line of logic behind the decision as there is in fact no minimum age for holding a shotgun licence in Britain, although children below 18 cannot buy or own a gun themselves and under-14s must be
supervised by an adult.
A female Sikh student character, derided by her friends for excess body hair in JK Rowling's latest novel The Casual Vacancy, has earned the author a rebuke from Sikh's highest authority at Akal Takht. Its representative body, the
Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), has sought removal of the text and an apology from Rowling.
Rowling, whose latest novel has been written with a Sikh family at the heart of its plot, has a character describing his classmate Sukhvinder as mustachioed, yet large-mammaried, scientists remain baffled by the contradictions of the hairy
While describing Rowling's choice of words as a slur on the Sikh community and provocative , SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar threatened that the author must either apologize or remove the text from her book in India or face action:
Even if the author had chosen to describe the female Sikh character's physical traits, there was no need for her to use provocative language, questioning her gender. This is condemnable.
Makkar refused to say what action the body was planning.
Following justifiable media criticism, politically correct officials at the Kulturhuset library in Stockholm have reversed their decision to ban Tintin comic books from library shelves.
The reversal comes after a report in Dagens Nyheter newspaper in which artistic director, Behrang Miri said the library planned to remove Tintin comics from its shelves:
The image the Tintin books give of Africans is Afro-phobic, for example. Africans are a bit dumb, while Arabs sit on flying carpets and Turks smoke water pipes.
But after criticism of the censorship erupted in Swedish media, Miri changed his stance. He said in a statement:
I wanted to highlight an opinion piece about issues of discrimination, but realize now that it's wrong to ban books,
Among those who slammed Kulturhuset's Tintin ban was Fredrik Stromberg, chair of the Swedish Comics Association:
I think it's wrong. I don't think people should censure in this way, children are smarter than that. It's better to talk about the stupid things we have done than to hide them away, that would be the mistake.
Fans of a best-selling erotic novel face a premature end to their reading pleasure because the second and third instalments of the trilogy have been withdrawn from the UAE bookshops.
Employees at some of the country's biggest bookstores say all three books of the Fifty Shades trilogy, by the British author EL James, were available until about a month ago, when there was a sudden withdrawal of the final two books in the series
- Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.
However, the first book in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey , remains on sale.
A saleswoman at Magrudy's in Abu Dhabi's Al Wadha Mall said they were still waiting for books two and three. They're banned. We don't know when we will get them, she said.
At Book World by Kinokuniya, in Dubai Mall, a saleswoman said the store was not allowed to sell the final instalments.
Virgin Megastore, which has a large display of the first book in Abu Dhabi Mall, said the second and third books have not been granted approval in the UAE at the moment . Iain Paul Martin, Virgin's regional senior books buyer, said all the
store's books required an approval certificate from the department of media content at the NMC. In this case, books 2 and 3 of the Grey trilogy have not been granted the certificate, he said.
But strangely the National Media Council (NMC), the government authority overseeing censorship, has rigorously denied imposing any such ban, claiming that stores deciding not to sell the book have decided to do so of their own accord. Ibrahim Al
Abed, the director general of the NMC, said the council had nothing to do with these things . We do not censor books. It's up to the bookshops who can decide to ban the books, he said.
Germany's top-selling women's magazine is considering abandoning its use of amateur models barely two years after deciding to banish professional ones.
The fortnightly Brigitte hit the headlines in 2009 when it said it would feature only real women in its pages, part of a backlash against the use of ultra-thin professional models in fashion.
The new direction proved more difficult than anticipated. For one thing, the magazine says, its stylists and photographers have found it is harder and takes longer to work with inexperienced non-professional models. At the same time the models
are being paid at a level comparable to professionals, the Su ddeutsche Zeitung reports.
At the same time, the radical move has not had the desired impact on readers. They have complained that the women that now appear in Brigitte's pages are just as skinny and pretty as the models previously used.
Furthermore, the publicity gained by abandoning models appears to have done little for the bottom line. Sales have continued to slide.
Now, with Stephan Schafer taking over at the helm as co-editor-in-chief alongside Brigitte Huber, the magazine is reconsidering the policy.
An animal rights group is campaigning for country sports magazines to be promoted to the top shelf, alongside pornography, because of their supposed corrosive effect on young minds.
Animal Aid is calling for a ban on their sale to under-18s, and will soon be leafleting major retailers with claims that such magazines celebrate casual cruelty and can effect the emotional development of children.
The Westcountry's country sports community rounded on the ridiculous comments, citing the discipline which shooting instills and lauding it as a way to encourage young people to get out into the countryside.
And Farming Minister Jim Paice said the campaign failed to recognise the contribution that country sports made to rural economies. He said:
Animal Aid doesn't want to understand the reality of what goes on in the countryside -- the value of these sports to local communities, to their economies and to conservation.
Animal Aid has produced a report, and won support from Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton. He said organisations which promote the shooting of animals should not be allowed to promote their
activities to children.
British Association for Shooting and Conservation spokesman Simon Clarke said:
This is one of the more ridiculous campaigns to come from extreme animal rights activists with a vegan agenda. Shooting magazines promote best practice in pest control and game shooting, both vital elements of the countryside.
Trying to ban magazines because you happen to disagree with their content is crass censorship at its worst.
The Pentagon is reviewing a copy of a forthcoming firsthand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, checking for leaks of classified information.
The book, No Easy Day , is scheduled for publication on 11 September, the anniversary of the 2001 attacks that bin Laden masterminded.
The author, Mark Owen, a former US navy Seal who participated in the raid, did not submit the book until now for the pre-publication review that is required by the military secrecy agreements officials say he signed.
Pentagon regulations stipulate that retired personnel, former employees and non-active duty members of the reserves shall use the DOD security review process to ensure that information they submit for public release does not compromise
national security .
Pentagon officials say that if they determine the manuscript reveals classified information about the raid, the Pentagon would defer to the department of justice . If the book has classified information, the former Seal could face criminal
Egyptian authorities have banned the import of A History of the Modern Middle East by eminent American academics William L Cleveland and Martin Bunton, now in its 12th edition.
Khaled Fahmy, chair of history at the American University in Cairo (AUC), said that he received an email from the university informing him that the book he had requested for his modern Arab history course had been banned from entering the
country. The short email did not give any reasons for the ban. Fahmy expressed dismay at the ban:
It's strange how we as a society give the responsibility of the Egyptian National Security to some clerks in the Print Censorship Authority, who prove everyday that they lack the basic knowledge of the priorities of scientific research, as well
as their disregard of national security too.
Fearing extremists reacting violently to the publication of books deemed to be offensive to Islam, many publishers have thought twice about what they release about the religion. Author of The Young Atheist's Handbook Alom Shaha says
it's time to discuss faith properly
We can't publish this, we'll get firebombed. Apparently this was the response from one of the staff at Biteback Publishing, the UK publishers of my book, The Young Atheist's Handbook, when it was first presented to them. Thankfully, Iain
Dale, the managing director, laughed at the idea, saying, it's OK, we're on the 10th floor and went on to publish the book anyway.
It's not just staff at Biteback who may have been concerned about publishing my book --- according to a senior editor at one of the largest international publishers, who claimed to be personally keen to give me a deal, she was unable to convince
her colleagues to agree because a number of people in the company would be uncomfortable about it. She then went on to explain that by uncomfortable she really meant afraid .
The Vatican has been accused of rejecting Bulgaria's new choice of ambassador because he wrote a novel containing a gay sex scene.
Kiril Maritchkov, a lawyer who speaks Italian, and is married to an Italian woman, would appear to be an ideal choice for Sofia's representative at the Vatican.
However, Bulgarian newspapers and the Italian press are reporting that an explicit encounter between a young Eastern European male prostitute and a Roman in Maritchkov's popular novel, Clandestination , has upset officials at the
Holy See, despite the Catholic church's less-than-spotless record on sexual transgression.
It was reported that Archbishop Janusz Bolonek, the Pope's representative in Sofia, highlighted the 'offending' part of the novel.
Reports in Sofia suggest the government there has dug its heels in and has refused to offer an alternative candidate for the role of ambassador.
Clandestination tells the story of Ivan, a young man fleeing the social and economic upheaval in one of Russia's satellite states following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Arriving in Rome, the illegal immigrant he finds that things in the West
aren't all they were cracked up to be, and finds hardship, petty crime and poverty. Ivan eventually prostitutes himself for EUR50. The end sees the troubled young man enter a church, fall to his knees and pray for forgiveness.
The new Bloomberg Businessweek magazine cover on finances of the 'Mormon Empire' has drawn nutter criticism.
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said:
The Businessweek cover is in such poor taste it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it, said Michael Purdy, Sadly, the cover is a reflection of the bias and speculative nature of the article itself. It is narrow and
incomplete, omitting, for instance, a good deal of information given on how church resources are used.
The article misses the mark and the cover is obviously meant to be offensive to many, including millions of Latter-day Saints.
The cover caricatures a classic LDS painting of what to Mormons is a sacred visitation by John the Baptist to early LDS leaders Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery The cover headline reads Inside the Mormon Empire. The accompanying
illustration portrays John the Baptist telling Smith and Cowdery to build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King, and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax, to which Joseph
Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a school dedicated to excellence and integrity in journalism said:
As someone who has been watching the coverage of politics and faith and more specifically of 'the Mormon question' for the last year, I see this as a great step backward. I thought we were past ridiculing sacred images of other faiths, even
radical Muslims, let alone our fellow Americans. I doubt the story is as out of whack as the cover, but on its own, the cover crosses way over the line between commentary and bigotry.
Richard Mouw, president of the Fuller Seminary, a graduate-level seminary for Evangelicals said:
This cover ridicules respected spiritual leaders and the Mormon faith by distorting a picture of sacred value and respect and turning it into a caricature.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, posted a comment about the cover on his Facebook page:
James Dawson, author of teen read Hollow Pike , explains why he has to hold back on the cussing in order to get his books accepted by the gatekeepers , booksellers and librarians.
Any artist tries to reproduce reality on their terms. So, as an author, I aim to portray young adult characters in the most honest way possible. Logically, this involves them swearing. In Hollow Pike, I was allowed shit and any swear word
less than this one ie bloody, Jesus Christ etc. Interestingly shit was only allowed as a curse, not as a bodily function (all bodily functions were removed at the edit, to make the characters more aspirational). It was only when
editing my new, second novel that I asked if I could use even stronger swear words in an extreme situation of peril.
My editor was sympathetic and has no personal objections to stronger words than shit , but it was at this stage the gatekeepers were first mentioned. Booksellers, book groups, librarians and bookshop buyers form this steely line of
defence. They are arguably the most powerful link in the publishing chain. These are the people who decide whether or not to sell your product. Without them, a book, especially a book by a debut author, is relegated to the internet and warehouse
shelves thus limiting the potential contacts a reader can make with the book in the real world
The book Super Smutty Sign Language by Kristin Henson has angered and caused protest amongst many members of the deaf community.
An online petition has received around 3,600 signatures asking that the book Super Smutty Sign Language not be printed because many claim that the book promotes disrespectful attitudes to Deaf culture and American Sign Language (ASL).
The book is written by Kristin Henson, a self-proclaimed ASL amateur from Philadelphia. The book comes after a series of YouTube videos where Henson teaches viewers how to sign vulgar phrases, such as, How much for a blow job? and I've
got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one.
After word got out that St. Martin's Press would be publishing Henson's book, many in the deaf community spoke up online about their displeasure with Henson's lack of knowledge of ASL and insensitivity to deaf culture.
Deaf rights activist Tavian Robinson wrote a blog post about the book and started the online petition:
It isn't just about her signing skills. It is about a person exploiting a language and culture that does not belong to her for profit while demonstrating extreme cultural insensitivity.
The petition calls for the book to not be published because of Henson's poor ASL skills, where many of her signs are incorrect. It also claims that many of the phrases signed by Henson are sexist, racist, ableist and exploit the native language
of deaf people for profit.
UT student Lisa Guerra, who is deaf, believes that it is not right for Henson to be profiting from teaching dirty signs and that Henson can be used as a teaching tool for those who are ignorant of Deaf culture and ASL:
American Sign Language deserves better recognition as a meaningful language than being used for poor humor that offends many, said Guerra. As a deaf person, I get asked to show dirty signs often, but making videos and making a profit from it?
Henson says that her book is currently in the writing stage so she plans to work with native signers to make sure her grammar is correct. She has also been taking ASL classes to improve her signing skills.
Russia's Council of Muslims has expressed 'outrage' over the banning in one court hearing in Orenburg of 65 Islamic texts as extremist .
The ban was imposed in a 20-minute hearing on 21 March and came into force on 27 April, but only became known when copies of the decision were handed to Islamic publishers at a book fair in Kazan in mid-June.
The Council condemned such religious book bans as an attempt to revive total ideological control . Damir Mukhetdinov, first deputy chair of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of European Russia, told Forum 18 said: We are already
deciding on our next steps and preparing documents for an appeal.
The Daily Mail has gathered together a few whinges about books being sold on Amazon without being pre-censored.
Amazon sells a vast number of ebooks, downloaded by readers from its website. Many of these are self published and hence haven't been subjected to massively expensive vetting by publishers.
The Daily Mail cites a few examples including anti-Semitic prose, instructions on growing marijuana, and glorifying dog fighting.
One ebook, Prophet Muhammad: Monster of History , includes images of a Koran being burned and a woman being hanged. The author, Jake Neuman, says of its content on his own website: The writings contained in this book are now illegal in
most Western countries.
The ludicrously easily offended Muslim Council of Britain has inevitably called for Amazon to take proper responsibility for the content of the books on its site:
Freedom of expression should not be unlimited, and publications that cause anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Jewish hatred or homophobic hatred should not be allowed.
A Sunday Times investigation also revealed a few examples: an ebook entitled Reverend Rapist , which describes a priest sexually assaulting a young girl; TNT FAQ and How to Make Nitroglycerin ; other eBooks included personal attacks
on members of the public - thought to be by disgruntled ex-spouses or partners.
The Sunday Times also extracted a few comments from Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, but as publishers are in direct competition with self publishing then surely these can dismissed as worthless.
Labour MP and sound byteist Paul Flynn said:
If Amazon is providing the platform for books that wouldn't be published otherwise, it is responsible. This is a cavalier attitude to inflammatory material.
Offsite Comment: Why should Amazon be our taste and decency police?
Clearer guidelines are needed to protect free speech online and that should include material that causes offence. Expecting virtual booksellers, hosts and publishers to operate as taste and decency police would introduce unaccountable
censorship based on subjective criteria. The best-selling erotica Fifty Shades of Grey , which began life on fan-fiction websites, and was first published as an ebook and print-on-demand paperback, might well have failed such a test and
deprived the world of the delights of mummy porn.
A Borders bookstore manager in Malaysia has been charged with distributing a Canadian writer's book that was banned as being against Islam.
Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz could face a two-year prison sentence and fine if convicted of the charge. A hearing was set for 19th September.
Allah, Liberty and Love , written by Irshad Manji, was banned in late May. Manji's website says book is about how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas. She said of the ban:
[It] is an insult to a new generation of Malaysians. Censorship treats citizens like children. Censorship denies human beings their free will to think for themselves.
The irony is that this book makes the case for faith. It empowers readers to reconcile Allah and freedom, showing that Muslims can be independent thinkers and profound believers in a loving God.
After the Vatican's doctrinal book censor condemned an American nun for a book she wrote on human sexuality this week, the book shot up Amazon.com's bestseller list, becoming the #1 best selling religious studies book. Sister Margaret A.
Farley's Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, was the #16 best-selling book on Amazon overall.
Farley's book shot up from number 142,982 on Amazon on the day the Vatican revealed its censure of Sister Margaret A. Farley over her 2006 book, which the church said is out of step with official church teaching on human sexuality, including
masturbation and homosexuality.
Masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action, the church said in a statement that went on to characterize homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity.
The censure came soon after the leadership that represents most American nuns concluded a meeting in Washington to devise a response to an April Vatican assessment that accused the nuns of promoting radical feminism. Taken together, the
Vatican critiques signal an attempt to reign in America's nuns, a community that the Holy See believes has drifted away from church teaching.
An arrest warrant has been issued for author Salam Azad, whose 2003 novel contains supposedly insulting remarks about the religious character Mohammed.
A court in Dhaka issued the order in response to a petition from a Muslim activist accusing author Salam Azad of hurting religious sentiment in his banned book Bhanga Math (Broken Temple).
Azad told AFP the case was part of a smear campaign against him launched by a senior official from the ruling Awami League party: I became his target after I protested his grabbing of Hindu property. He has already filed a case against me .
Azad said the book, published in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, was banned for blasphemy by the Bangladeshi government in 2004.
A Helluva Read : Profanity in Adolescent Literature
Although the use of profanity has been examined in a number of types of media, to our knowledge profanity has not been examined in adolescent literature. Thus, the frequency and portrayal of profanity was coded in 40 bestselling adolescent
Results revealed that some novels did not contain a single instance of profanity, whereas others contained hundreds of often very strong profanity.
When profanity was used, characters were likely to be young, rich, attractive, and of pronounced social status.
Novels directed at older adolescents contained much more profanity. However, age guidance or content warnings are not found on the books themselves.
Discussion is provided regarding the implications of the findings and the appropriateness of including content warnings in adolescent literature.
Offsite Comment: Our swear words have been devalued by overuse -- but not because teenagers are reading too many profane books
Apparently experts (unidentified, as experts so often are) have estimated that American youths use an average of ninety swear words a day. This makes them seem quite restrained as anyone who has stood at a bus-stop with a collection
of British teenagers can testify -- only ninety times a day? On the other hand there are parents of adolescents who will be surprised to learn that their offspring are capable of articulating or muttering as many as ninety words of any kind in
the course of a day.
To my mind it's unlikely that all these foul-mouthed adolescents have learned the habit from books, since many of them never open one.
A Canadian Muslim gay activist launched her controversial new book in Malaysia despite a government minister's attempts to shut down the event.
Irshad Manji launched Allah, Liberty and Love at a hastily arranged event in the capital Kuala Lumpur after two other venues pulled out of hosting her, according to local publisher ZI Publications.
Jamil Khir Baharom, minister in charge of Islamic affairs, had said Islamic officials and the Home Ministry would not allow the author's roadshow in the country following complaints. He was quoted by national news agency Bernama as saying that
the book was offensive to Muslims as was Manji's ideology and openly gay lifestyle, which was deemed to be against Islam.
According to Manji's website, the book, now available in the local Malay language:
Shows all of us how to reconcile faith and freedom in a world seething with repressive dogmas... This book is the ultimate guide to becoming a gutsy global citizen.
The book has not been officially banned in Malaysia, thou Manji's previous internationally acclaimed book, The Trouble with Islam Today , is banned.
Manji also faced problems while touring Indonesia before coming to Malaysia. Police shut down several events after the Islamic Defenders Front group held violent protests condemning her liberal views on Islam and her homosexuality.
According to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Geert Wilders' new book is nothing but a repetition of his previous hate campaign against Islam, which is actually abuse of freedom of expression.
A OIC spokesperson expressed dismay at the publication of Wilders' new book, Marked for Death: Islam's War Against the West and Me.
According to the OIC's website, the new book is nothing but a repetition of Mr. Wilders campaign of hate mongering against Islam in abusing his right of freedom of expression. Suffice it to say that his activities have been denounced and
disavowed by the Dutch Government, Dutch Parliament, the European Parliament as well as the Council of Europe.
Update: European Amazon opts out of controversy
20th May 2012.
Unsurprisingly European branches of the book sellers Amazon are not stocking Geert Wilders' provocative new book: Marked for Death: Islam's War Against the West and Me.
Next week the London Book Fair welcomes China, the world's largest publisher by volume, as the 2012 market focus and has teamed up with the British Council to invite around 20 Chinese writers to west London for a series of readings,
discussions and talks celebrating the best in Chinese literature. But the writers who make up the delegation and the events at which they'll be speaking have been chosen in consultation with partners including China's General Administration of
Press and Publishing (Gapp), whose responsibilities include the censorship of newspapers and publishers. According to writer Ma Jian this makes true cultural exchange impossible, and puts freedom of expression in China under yet more pressure:
For China to be named guest of honour. for the British cultural establishment to be shaking hands with the Chinese head of propaganda, a man responsible for the banning and censoring of books and the imprisonment of writers, is disgraceful.
Today, Dracula remains a defining creation of Gothic fiction, the consummate creature of the night, the king of unnatural beings, as fiendish as he is charismatic. This month, Stoker's original publishers, Constable & Robinson,
will mark the centenary of the author's death on 20 April 1912 by publishing a
facsimile edition of the novel.
It is, thus, a timely moment to consider the legacy this formidable creature has left. There have been countless Counts depicted on film over the past century, and the Dracula industry continues apace in the 21st: a new film, Dracula 3D,
starring Rutger Hauer and directed by Dario Argento (who was behind the cult horror, Suspiria), is scheduled to be released this year; Dacre Stoker, the author's great-grand-nephew, has just co-edited
The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker with Elizabeth Miller, based on a notebook discovered in his attic, whose entries offer new insight into the author's mind.
So what has given Dracula his imperishable appeal? Dacre Stoker thinks it is the open-ended nature of its central character that has led to its longevity. Dracula, and the horrors he encapsulates, remain relevant because he -- and the text -- are
He [Bram Stoker] left a lot ambiguous. The book is not straightforward. The character of Dracula is mysterious. He is only in 30 percent of the pages of the story; his presence is greater because it is created through the minds of other people
and you end up wondering: 'Is he a count?', 'Is he a threat?', 'Is he a vampire?'
Every year, the American Library Association releases a list of the most frequently challenged books, ie books that nutters have requested to be banned from libraries, schools, and curricula.
This year, Suzanne Collins' dystopian novel The Hunger Games trilogy is ranked No. 3 on the list. It's no surprise that Hunger Games is a controversial series, its basic premise of children slaughtering children for sport is said to
be shocking in itself.
At No.1 is Lauren Myracle's IM series, ttyl, ttfn, and l 8r, g8r . The novels, written entirely in IM format, follow high school friends as they navigate boys, drugs, alcohol, parties, driving, and college prep.
No. 2 on the list is The Color of Earth , a series by Kim Dong Hwa, a graphic novel about a young girl coming of age alongside her single mother.
A Russian court has dismissed an appeal supporting the ban of an edition of the Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita As It Is , in a case that triggered protests in India. The book is a used by the Hare Krishna movement.
In December, a court in the Siberian city of Tomsk had rejected a plea by prosecutors to rule the edition to be "extremist" and therefore banned.
Prosecutors had filed an appeal in the higher court against the decision and so as to re-impose the ban.
The controversial commentary on the text was written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. Followers in Russia saw the case as part of efforts by the Russian Orthodox Church to restrict their
The Bhagvad Gita, one of the most popular texts for Hindus, takes the form of a conversation between the god Krishna and prince Arjuna.
The London Book Fair is facing claims it has bowed to pressure from Chinese authorities by failing to invite dissident and exiled writers to next month's event and choosing only state-approved authors.
Bei Ling, an exiled poet and essayist, has written to the British Council, the organisers of the cultural programme of the fair, which is one of the biggest international publishing events in the world, expressing his surprise over its plans to
host Chinese state-approved writers and organisations.
I was amazed that no independent voice, no exiled or dissident writer from China is being represented at the London Book Fair, he told the Guardian, accusing the fair, which is focusing on China this year, of self-censorship to keep
Chinese authorities on board.
It is shocking enough that the book fair has worked with Gapp (General Administration of Press and Publication, the agency responsible for regulating publications in China). In order to ensure that their guest country was happy they exercised
self-censorship and didn't push for other, non-state-approved writers, although without them you don't get a full picture of literary China, he said.
As March 15, 2012, Digital Manga Inc.'s account has been suspended from the Kindle platform. While we're working to try and amend the situation, we will not be able to publish titles to the Kindle for the foreseeable future. Our account was
suspended under troubling circumstances - we have had titles cited for content violation , and while we screen every title to ensure they adhere to Kindle's standards, their guidelines are notoriously vague, and prohibit Pornography
and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.
There is no definition of pornography versus erotica officially available from amazon. In the past, we considered our titles the latter, and strive to comply with Amazon's guidelines. However, with such vague guidelines and a
veritable library of erotica in written and drawn form already available on the Kindle, it is difficult to discern exactly what rules Amazon wanted us to comply with. We also find it disheartening that our titles depicting male homosexual
romance have been banned while erotica depicting other forms of intercourse flourishes. What makes relationships between men more objectionable than erotic tristes between men and women? This is a question we imagine you're all asking yourselves
right now, and a question that we need Amazon to answer for us.
While we work to restore our account, we encourage yaoi fans to explore alternate platforms for reading manga. Our titles are available on emanga.com, Nook (including free apps for your PC, iPad, or Android tablet), and on the DMP App for Apple
products and Android Tablets. This event has also led us to pursue the possibility of making digital manga available through other platforms. We look forward to continuing to bring you all the best in manga content, yaoi or otherwise, and
appreciate your continuing support.
For Information the Kindle content rules re porn are simply:
Due to the events that transpired on Thursday, March 15th we were prepared for the worst. But thanks to the massive outpouring of fan support protesting Kindle's illogical censorship policies and flimsy guidelines, Digital Manga's Kindle account
was restored in record time. We had expected an uphill battle, but manga fans and advocates of equal rights made their voices heard and Amazon realized how loud you all can be. This morning, we received this email:
After reviewing your response, we have reinstated your account and we will once again accept your books for possible publication.
Please be advised that all of your submissions must comply with our Content Guidelines for publishing in the Kindle Store and that your future submissions may be subject to additional review prior to being published. This may result in a delay
It is a world-renowned work of literature and one of the foundation stones of the Italian language, but Dante's The Divine Comedy has been condemned as racist, homophobic, anti-Islamist and anti-Semitic.
The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a nutter group that ludicrously claims to be a human rights organisation. The group acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.
Dante's epic is offensive and discriminatory and has no place in a modern classroom, claims Valentina Sereni, the group's president.
Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency that it represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors. Homosexuals are damned by the work as being against nature and
condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell. Sereni added:
We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books ...BUT... we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above
Although supposedly not advocating censorship , they called for the book to be banned anyway, from schools and universities, or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.
Of course those being patronised by Gherush 92 are in little need of such bollox. For instance, Franco Grillini, the head of Gaynet, a gay rights' organisation, said the suggestion that Dante's writings should be prohibited marked an excess of
political correctness .
PayPal retracted its threat to close the accounts of online booksellers who sell works that they claim could be considered obscene.
In a statement posted on its website today, PayPal announced that in the future it will not reject e-books that consist only of text unless they contain child pornography, or ... text and obscene images of rape, bestiality or incest (as
defined by the U.S. legal standard for obscenity...).
PatPal committed to limit its objections to particular books rather than rejecting entire classes. It also said that it is developing a process that will allow an author to challenge a PayPal notice that a book violates its policy.
The PayPal statement does not fully resolve all issues, however. It is not clear whether legal material would be affected by PayPal's policy regarding e-books that contain child pornography, some of which may be legal.
This decision recognizes the important principle that neither PayPal nor any other company involved in payment processing has any business telling people what they should read, said Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition
Against Censorship (NCAC).
Last week, BannedWriters wrote an open letter to MasterCard, asking them if they could confirm or deny whether pressure from them was behind PayPal's move to refuse the sale of erotica books containing taboo subject matter.
Chris Monteiro, Corporate Public Relations, MasterCard Incorporated responded:
Thank you for your inquiry as to whether MasterCard played a role in the recent decision by PayPal to limit certain content belonging to your members. We appreciate the opportunity to explain our policies and hope to provide clarity regarding
this matter. To be clear, MasterCard had no involvement in the decision made by PayPal to refuse to process payments for certain books.
MasterCard maintains a set of standards that prohibit the use of MasterCard-branded cards and systems for illegal activities. These standards require MasterCard's customers to comply with all applicable laws and not to engage in illegal
behavior, or in behavior that would cause MasterCard to violate any laws. In this particular scenario, MasterCard would not take action regarding the use of its cards and systems for the sale of lawful materials that seek to explore erotica
content of this nature.
There has been a lot of criticism of PayPal across the web, in the erotica and general fiction communities in the last few days. PayPal responded on their blog, saying:
Unlike many other online payment providers, PayPal does allow its service to be used for the sale of erotic books. PayPal is a strong and consistent supporter of openness on the Internet, freedom of expression, independent publishing and eBook
marketplaces. We believe that the Internet empowers authors in a way that is positive and points to an even brighter future for writers, artists and creators the world over, but we draw the line at certain adult content that is extreme or
The problem here is in the weasel words extreme and potentially . How is PayPal to say what is extreme? Or potentially illegal? If they are concerned about facilitating the sale of illegal content they should work with the community
to figure out what to do about it, not impose ill-defined and vague strictures on the publishing and distribution companies that use their services.
Then we have:
Some feedback we're getting is a belief that PayPal is forcing its moral beliefs on others and restricting people's right to free speech. We can tell you with 100 percent conviction that this is not our intention. While we understand that people
don't always agree with our policies, this decision has nothing to do with our personal views on the content or any desire to limit free-speech rights.
It may not be PayPal's intention to censor fiction, but it is the effect of their policy nonetheless. But we didn't mean it like that is a poor response.
Blogger Madeleine Morris, writing on Banned Writers, published a response from Visa to her enquiries about the issues which disputes this view:
Dear Ms. Morris,
Thank you for your email regarding PayPal's recent decision to limit the sale of certain erotica content. First and foremost, we want to clarify that Visa had no involvement with PayPal's conclusion on this issue. Nor have we seen the material
in question. This fact is made clear by PayPal's recent blog post where it states that its own policies drove the decision.
[T]he sale of a limited category of extreme imagery depicting rape, bestiality and child pornography is or is very likely to be unlawful in many places and would be prohibited on the Visa system whether or not the images have formally been held
to be illegal in any particular country. Visa would take no action regarding lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner.
[...] Visa is not in the business of censoring cultural product. We recognize, as courts in the U.S. and elsewhere have long recognized, that this is a challenging topic. Bright lines are difficult to establish. We welcome the input of all
stakeholders regarding our policies as we work to sustain a network that supports global commerce, while respecting the laws of the countries where we operate.
However you look at it, PayPal is imposing its moral position on writers and publishers because it is asking for work to be taken down that has not been found illegal.
PayPal, which plays a dominant role in processing online sales, has taken full advantage of the vast and open nature of the Internet for commercial purposes, but is now holding free speech hostage by clamping down on sales
of certain types of erotica. As organizations and individuals concerned with intellectual and artistic freedom and a free Internet, we strongly object to PayPal functioning as an enforcer of public morality and inhibiting the right to buy and
sell constitutionally protected material. Recently, PayPal gave online publishers and booksellers, including BookStrand.com, Smashwords, and eXcessica, an ultimatum: it would close their accounts and refuse to process all payments unless they
removed erotic books containing descriptions of rape, incest, and bestiality. The result would severely restrict the public's access to a wide range of legal material, could drive some companies out of business and deprive some authors of their
Financial services providers should be neutral when it comes to lawful online speech. PayPal's policy underscores how vulnerable such speech can be and how important it is to stand up and protect it.
The topics PayPal would ban have been depicted in world literature since Sophocles' Oedipus and Ovid's Metamorphoses. And while the books currently affected may not appear to be in the same league, many works ultimately
recognized for their literary, historical, and artistic worth were reviled when first published. Books like Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover were banned as obscene in the United States because of their sexual content. The works of
Marquis de Sade, which include descriptions of incest, torture, and rape, were considered scandalous when written, although his importance in the history of literature and political and social philosophy is now widely acknowledged.
The Internet has become an international public commons, like an enormous town square, where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticized. That will change if private companies, which are under no legal obligation to
respect free speech rights, are able to use their economic clout to dictate what people should read, write, and think.
PayPal, and the myriad other payment processors that support essential links in the free speech chain between authors and audiences, should not operate as morality police.
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
Association of American Publishers
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Feminists for Free Expression
National Coalition Against Censorship
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association
PEN American Center
Southern California Independent Booksellers Association
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance
Re Paypal's ban on text based erotica and small self publishing companies:
While the government in the US is not able to censor speech, there is little preventing a private company like Paypal or its credit card partners from taking these actions. Yet, Smashwords is not giving up hope. In its latest update, Smashwords
notes that it had managed to get the deadline extended as well as the definitions of prohibited content relaxed. It also wants to clarify that neither it nor Paypal are the real villians in this issue.
A lot of people have been attacking Smashwords for my decision to comply with PayPal's requirements. They're pointing their arrows at the wrong target, and they're not helping their cause. We're working to effect positive long term change for
the entire Smashwords community, and that includes all our erotica authors and readers.
Over the weekend, many Smashwords authors and publishers demanded we abandon PayPal and find a new payment processor. It's not so simple, and it doesn't solve the greater problem hanging over everyone's head. PayPal is trying to implement the
requirements of credit card companies, banks and credit unions. This is where it's all originating. These same requirements will eventually rain down upon every other payment processor. PayPal is trying to maintain their relationships with the
credit card companies and banks, just as we want to maintain our relationship with PayPal. People who argue PayPal is the evil villain and we should drop them are missing the bigger picture. Should we give up on accepting credit cards forever?
The answer is no. This goes beyond PayPal. Imagine the implications if credit card companies start going after the major ebook retailers who sell erotica?
The opening bedroom scene of Andrea Juillerat-Olvera's new, erotic science-fiction novel Demon's Grace is a classic of its kind. He is on his knees, it begins, worshiping the cavernous female torso.
It's underhanded, unfair and ludicrous, and it bodes badly for the future of free speech and expression, said Juillerat-Olvera, adding that Demon's Grace is now banned by self-publishing sites.
Sadly, for admirers of Juillerat-Olvera, it's about to get harder to enjoy her fruity pose. In what victims are calling the most far-reaching act of censorship of the internet era, Demon's Grace and thousands of books like it have just been
effectively banned. To blame is the online payment company PayPal, which has a virtual monopoly over the business of allowing cash transfers to be made via the internet.
Last week, without warning, PayPal wrote to every major self-publishing website, announcing that henceforth it will refuse to process payments for clients that sell books which contain certain types of what it regards as obscene content.
From now on, the firm said, it will begin aggressively prohibiting erotic literature which contains scenes of bestiality, rape, incest and under-age sex. Ebook websites that sell such works will have their PayPal accounts deactivated.
PayPal's move is hypocritical because its founder, Peter Thiel, claims to be one of America's leading libertarians. In a statement, the Silicon Valley firm claimed:
In general, PayPal does allow our service to be used for the sale of erotic books, but we have to draw the line on certain adult content that is extreme or potentially illegal.
The firm added that the decision does not represent an effort to impose a morality on the reading public. ..[BUT it will anyway]..
Vella Munn, who writes under the name Vonna Harper, said that the guidelines will ban the most successful novel from her back catalogue, Carnal Captives. She explained:
It contains a scene of non-consensual sex. But that doesn't make the book illegal. Given that it sells more copies than all my other books combined, I have to conclude that it's what people want. It's incredible: how can an internet company not
believe in free speech?
Smashwords, an e-book distributor that competes with Amazon, has sent out a letter to the authors, publishers and literary agents that it works with to tell them that PayPal is requiring Smashwords to remove all erotica content on its
platform that contains references to bestiality, rape and incest -- otherwise it will stop doing business with Smashwords altogether. The changes are due to take effect on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
letter -- written by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords -- has been posted on Smashwords' own site, and gives a fuller explanation of what is going on: it all stems from an ultimatum that PayPal issued to Smashwords on Feb. 18: PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services.
Coker says that other e-book retailers have also been served with the same orders, but he does not name them. He also says that PayPal has been helpful with working out exactly what kind of content falls foul of the new rules, but that gray
areas remain. (For example incest also includes pseudo-incest, ie sex with a step family member unrelated in terms of bloodline).
He also points out that this latest order is part of a bigger push by PayPal to start aggressively enforcing a prohibition against online retailers selling certain types of 'obscene' content.
Regardless of your opinion on incest, it's a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy... A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved, he writes. We do
not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection.
Paypal wrote about their conditions for continued Paypal services:
Remove those items from http://www.excessica.com that violate PayPal's Acceptable Use Policy. Example/s: all ebooks containing themes of rape and incest.
Under the Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for certain sexually oriented materials or services or for items that could be considered obscene.
When I asked if pseudo-incest was included, the Paypal representative confirmed that yes, that would have to be removed. Paypal were also asked: What about BDSM? Paypal answered: That would have to be removed as well.
Malaysian officials have ordered book shops to stop selling a sex education book by British author Peter Mayle.
Where did I come from? is banned from sale pending a review, a Home Ministry statement seen by the BBC said. It will be banned completely if it is if it is proven to contain elements harmful to public morals and corrupt people's minds
, said the statement from a senior official on Tuesday.
The book's cover states it is the facts of life without any nonsense . The illustrated book aims to help parents explain to children such topics as sex, conception and birth.
Deputy secretary for safety, Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi, said in the statement: The ministry has obtained the co-operation of book sellers around the country to immediately stop sales until the review is completed and the decision is made.
The book Bloody Mama by Robert Thom was banned in New Zealand in 1971 on grounds of supposed indecency. Apparently it contains references to rape, incest, prostitution, cruelty and violence.
A second-hand copy of the book Bloody Mama at Wellington second-hand booksellers Book Have n, was anonymously snitched up to the Department of Internal Affairs in November.
The book, which canvasses the true life story of 1930s gang leader Kate Ma Barker and her sons, had been for sale for about a year, despite being banned by the now defunct Indecent Publications Tribunal.
This week the modern day book censors at the Office of Film and Literature Classification have reclassified the book as 'Unrestricted'. The censor commented that the adult content was restricted to one or two pages and readers would be mature
enough to handle it.
Book Haven owner Don Hollander said the ruling was marvellous . The book would be returned next week and he would frame it to hang in the shop as a talking piece, he told NZ Newswire.
The book was made into a low-budget film starring Robert de Niro, that was also ludicrously banned in 1971. However, it was later reclassified R16 in 1981.
A Belgian court has refused to ban the sale of Tintin in the Congo , rejecting arguments by a Congolese man that the iconic 1931 comic book was filled with racist stereotypes about Africans.
The Brussels court ruled that Belgian anti-racism laws only apply when there is a willful intention to discriminate against someone, said an attorney for Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, the man who tried to get the strip off bookshelves.
The court heard arguments that given the historical context, the author, Herge, could not have been motivated by the desire to discriminate.
For the past four years, Mbutu Mondondo had sought to get the book banned or at least force stores to place a warning label on the cover or add a preface explaining that it was written in a different era, as English versions do.
Mbutu's lawyers said he would appeal the decision.
Legal proceedings have been filed against four authors that read aloud from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.
The Jaipur story has now taken a new turn, on 6th February two courts in the city began legal proceedings after complaints were filed by among others, members of an organisation that campaigned against Salman Rushdie's participation in the Jaipur
Literature Festival. They allege that the festival organisers and four authors who read from Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.
The four authors --- Amitava Kumar, Hari Kunzru, Ruchir Joshi, and Jeet Thayil --- read from the novel to express solidarity with the absent Rushdie, and as a mark of protest. Rushdie did not go to Jaipur after he received plausible information
that security forces had evidence of death threats against him. Now the festival's organisers are also being charged under provisions of India's criminal laws, which date back to the colonial era.
The complainants main contention is that the authors and the festival organisers conspired to promote enmity on grounds of religion. One magistrate has recorded the complaint to decide if the case has any merit before it is sent to the
police to register a First Information Report. That case will now be heard on 8 March.
The cancellation of the release party for Taslima Nasreen's autobiography at the Kolkata Book Fair has thrown the spotlight on the destructive clout of religious fanatics in a city once known for savouring cultural pluralism.
Coupled with the Salman Rushdie controversy - when the Booker awardee had to call off his visit and then his much-anticipated video address at the Jaipur Literature Festival following security threats triggered by some Islamic groups' protest -
would go down as another instance of Indian authorities and parties kowtowing before religious rabblerousers.
While the Rushdie episode saw the political parties and the government, in the words of novelist Vikram Seth, knuckling under an enforced disgrace because of power and politics , the only difference here was that publishers went
ahead with the launch of the book at the fair, despite the hostile attitude of organisers.
The seventh volume of Nasreen's book Nirbasan ( Exile ), which deals with her life after exile from Kolkata in 2007 and which almost nobody had read before the release, saw religious fundamentalists protesting against the launch.
This was nothing new for the Bangladesh-born author, a doctor by profession in the early 80s, who was forced to leave her country in 1994 after there was widespread agitation against her novel Lajja ( Shame ), which a section of
people saw as an assault on Islam.
Hours before the release function, the organisers telephoned the publishers, People's Book Society, asking them to cancel the programme due to logistical problems . But later it transpired that some Islamic groups had approached the
authorities and the city police against the book release.
A top official of the organising body, Publishers' and Book Sellers' Guild, confirmed the development saying:
We cannot allow any such thing to happen inside the Book Fair premises which can hurt the interest of the common people coming to the fair. We cannot allow anything that may hurt the religious sentiments of any community.
You may wonder why the authority tries to ban me or ban my book launch. They believe I am anti-Islam, and supporting me or allowing me entry to the country or the state or the city or the book fair would send a wrong message to the Muslim
fanatics. They fear they would lose the Muslim vote. They do not want to take the risk of a single Muslim vote.
The author believes the appetite for censorship is growing in India , she said. With Rushdie prevented by fears of violence from attending or even speaking via video link at the Jaipur event in January, Nasrin says we are witnessing the
disturbing victory of Islamic gangsters in Jaipur and Kolkata. I am wondering how to stop this growing cancer from spreading, she said. According to Nasrin, intolerance is growing
because the government does not take action against intolerant fanatics and the fanatics are forgiven for whatever violence they commit in the name of religion ... India needs to secularise the states, judiciary and educational systems. People
need to learn about the principles of democracy, freedom of expression, human rights and humanism. They need to be enlightened. In the name of 'Indian secularism', irrational blind faith and the barbarity of all religions seem to be accepted and
Vietnam's pop culture is attracting the attention of book censors who experts say are struggling to accept an increasingly brash literary scene.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, whose collection of comic rhyming slang was recently banned, said his illustration of two gormless-looking soldiers kicking a grenade to each other may have caused the censors' ire. The caption reads Being a soldier you
must always get noticed , an attempt to poke fun at the inflated, heroic image of the country's military. I just thought it was funny, said Phong.
The 26-year-old artist said censorship only increased people's desire to read the book, entitled The murderer with a pus-filled head , which aims to reflect the street patois of Vietnam's youth.
Phong said his book sold 5,000 copies in two weeks but was then discontinued, stoking under-the-counter demand that pushed prices to as much as 100,000 dong ($5), more than double its official cost.
Vietnamese officials would not confirm the specific reason for the decision to take Phong's book off the shelves. They also wouldn't provide figures on the number of books banned each year when asked by AFP.
However the censors have now indicated a willingness to negotiate a revised version. Phong said he expects some illustrations will be removed and replaced with different popular slang and is confident a new book would not be seen as diluted.
Another controversial book, a collection of short stories by journalist Nguyen Vinh Nguyen, was banned and its publisher fined for disseminating depraved and pornographic ideas, not in accordance with Vietnam's traditions and customs .
Readers really want the sort of products of a free publishing environment, rather than what they are given now, which are books that have undergone 'treatment' and been sanitised, Nguyen told AFP.
An account of a middle class Dublin woman's venture into sex work could act as a spur to impressionable young women to enter a trade that is dangerous and detrimental to mental health, nutters have claimed.
The book, Between the Sheets , is an account of the alleged double life of a middle-class Dublin woman who lost her job and embarked on a life in prostitution to maintain her comfortable home and family lifestyle in the face of
financial collapse . The author has adopted the pseudonym Scarlett O'Kelly .
Penguin Ireland, the publishers, claim it will be one of the most controversial books of the year and say they are satisfied that the woman's account is genuine, adding:
The book claims to be 'an illuminating and explicit account of a year spent working as an escort in middle Ireland, a gripping account of living a double life, and the high price it exacts'.
The author, Scarlett O'Kelly , said the sex industry was nothing like she expected it to be: I expected it to be seedy and awful and it wasn't. She said that during her time as an escort and prostitute, she had had sex with more
than 150 men.
Ellen O'Malley Dunlop of the Rape Crisis Centre said:
It is what is happening in terms of young people being sexualised before they are ready. It's unreal what is happening out there in terms of young people being inured to it.
Nusha Yonkova, Anti-Trafficking Project Co-ordinator with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, expressed serious reservations about any work that sought to portray prostitution as in any way a suitable or easy lifestyle:
The book would be read by young people who may be at an unstable point in their lives and this could act as an encouragement. It is very disappointing that Penguin has done this. I think it is purely to gain profits. It is a poor choice.
The reality is that there are almost no middle-class, middle-aged women (in prostitution). The reality is that they are predominantly migrants from Eastern and Central Europe, poor central American countries and Africa. There are some Irish
women, but the majority of them would also have addiction problems. That is the difference. They would not be people who have choices.
Former Garda Detective Superintendent PJ Browne, who led an investigation into Dublin's vice trade, said that, while he had not read the book, he was concerned about any impression that might be given that prostitution was a safe or lifestyle
choice. He said:
We found that a large number of young women working in prostitution were from very poor backgrounds and from countries where they could get no work. It is sordid and it is dangerous. I have no idea what experiences this woman had, but the vast
majority of women working in this trade in Ireland are young foreign women who are desperate for money.
The very useful book entitled A Guide to the Working Ladies of London is said to be at the centre of a police prostitution probe.
The book lists the contact details, specialist services, working hours and charging policies of almost 600 sex workers in the capital. The £ 10 directory has sold more than 500 copies on Amazon, according to
author George McCoy, a long time reviewer of sexual services.
However, Kit Malthouse, deputy Mayor of London with responsibility for policing, said he would ask the Met to investigate the legality of the book. He spewed:
It strikes me that reviewing human beings in the same way as a restaurants is repellent.
The thing people forget is that the world of organised prostitution is also a world of organised crime, drug dealing and abuse. Anything like this that tries to sanitise it is revolting.
[A strange comment in a city where people spend so much time watching TV talent shows where people are rated for their ability to dance, cook, sing and...whatever].
McCoy, who has also written another useful book called Guide to the Agencies, Corrective Services and Parlours of London , said he took all the measures he could to ensure those listed work of their own free will, and had no moral qualms
about his work. He said:
I think we have far too many people in this world telling us how to behave.
Obviously we want to give a good example to the youth of the country, but you should be free to do what we want as long as it's not going to harm anyone else.
A Met Police spokesman said they would consider investigating when they received information from Malthouse:
The Metropolitan Police Service's human exploitation and organised crime command responds to, and builds up, intelligence pictures in areas of the sex industry where the most harm may be done. Our primary aim is to make London a hostile
environment for traffickers and those who exploit people to operate in.
Milli Hill of Somerset is a parenting columnist for Somerset Life Magazine and blogger for The Mule.
She has created on online petition entitled
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO: Refuse to carry books which advocate the physical abuse of children. The petition urges Amazon (both .com and .co.uk) to stop allowing books that purportedly advocate, endorse, and advise parenting techniques that
involve the physical abuse of children as a disciplinary technique. Examples of some titles targeted by the petition include To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp, and Don't Make
Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman. The petition continues:
Such books, and others like them, promote behaviour which is abusive of children. All of the above books advocate the use of a rod and other implements on children under one.
Such behaviour is abusive to children, and it is also 'offensive', which is contrary to Amazon's Content Guidelines.
It may well also be illegal, as it seems to go far beyond the 'reasonable chastisement' currently sanctioned by law in the UK, (where this petition originated) and in many US States. Not only is beating on a regular basis with a rod likely to
leave a mark, which is illegal in the UK, it is also likely to amount to inhuman or degrading treatment, which is a breach of human rights.
We wish Amazon to urgently review their decision to stock any book or other product which advises the physical abuse of children.
The petition currently stands at 10,425. Apparently this includes many notable names in the field of children's rights, psychology, child development, and religious child maltreatment.
Perhaps a little strange that the group does not petition against the religions that prove such a fertile breeding ground for bad attitudes to children.
Prosecutors in Russia's Siberian city of Tomsk have insisted that a Russian translation of the book on a Hindu scripture called Bhagavad-Gita As It Is should be banned as extremist literature, filing an appeal against an earlier court
ruling not to ban the book, a court spokeswoman said.
In late December 2011, a Siberian district court rejected a petition by prosecutors seeking a ban on the book. The petition was originally filed in June that year and the trial has prompted a flurry of criticism in international media.
Bhagavad Gita As It Is , a translation and commentary of the original Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripture, was written by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Prosecutors have claimed the book promotes extremism and social discord .
India has expressed concerns over the prospect of Russia banning the book, urging the Russian government to quickly resolve the issue.
Sir Salman Rushdie faces the threat of reprisals from Indian Muslims after a leading Islamic institute demanded the government ban his scheduled appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
The demand from the Islamic body revived divisions over The Satanic Verses , his 1988 novel that Muslim groups have condemned as blasphemous. The book provoked 'outrage' throughout the Muslim world over the narrator's claim that
disputed verses in the Koran had been revealed by the Archangel Gabriel.
Fatwas from the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband are observed throughout the world. Its vice chancellor said tens of millions of muslims remain hurt about the novel. Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the institute head, said:
I call upon the Muslim organisations of the country to mount pressure on the centre to withdraw the visa and prevent him visiting India where [tens of millions] community members still feel hurt owing to the anti-Islamic remarks in his writings
The Muslims cannot pardon him at any cost,
His remarks were supported by party leaders in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state which is home to the seminary. Rajesh Dixit, general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, the state's second largest party, said the author's visit must be prevented
to avoid insult to India's Muslims.
Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai and holds Indian travel documents, remains committed to appearing at the festival, he said. The author posted a defiant response on Twitter. Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don't need a visa.
Sir Salman Rushdie's name has been dropped from an Indian literature festival amid fears for his safety after threats of protests by the country's most influential Islamic seminary.
The author of Midnight's Children, voted the best Booker Prize winner of the last 40 years, was quietly deleted from the Jaipur Literature Festival programme after the government voiced security concerns and said the opinions of protesters could
not be ignored
Rushdie said in a statement that he had decided to cancel his trip. He said he had been informed by intelligence sources that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to "eliminate" me . While I
have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances. .
India's reputation for upholding free speech suffered a body blow yesterday after a scheduled video address by Salman Rushdie to a literary festival was cancelled just minutes before it was due to start amid protests and fears of violence.
The British novelist had been due to take part in an hour-long video interview after alleged death threats and protests from Muslim leaders linked to his 1988 book The Satanic Verses persuaded him not to attend the Jaipur festival in person. But,
having earlier indicated the event would go ahead, organisers announced it was being called off at the request of the owner of the festival's venue, who had been told by police that planned protests could end in violence.
Last night, Rushdie described what had taken place as a black farce and recalled a letter he had written to Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister when India became the first country to ban the book more than two decades ago. What kind of
India do you want to live in? he said in an interview on Indian television. I find an India in which religious extremists can prevent the freedom of expression at a literary festival, in which the politicians are, let's say, in bed with
Rushdie also had a few choice words about censorship by threat of violence:
It's astonishing to me that suddenly not only my physical presence, but even my image on a video screen is considered to be unacceptable. I think it's pretty shocking.
While I've been cast as this so called enemy of Islam, which seems ludicrous to anyone who knows how I have written and spoken over the years, the real enemies of Islam are the leaders, the Deobandis, the various extremist leaders and their
followers, who behave like this, because what they do is to strengthen the extremely negative image of Islam as an intolerant, repressive, and violent culture, as an ideology masquerading as a gentle faith, whereas actually what happens every
time it's crossed, or every time it dislikes something, is that it resorts to threats and violence. People like this, who behave like this, are the ones who feed that image and they are the ones responsible for the negative views of Islam in the
world, and they should be called the enemies of the faith.
I would have said that the vast majority of Indian Muslims really, frankly, don't give a damn whether I come or go. They have many other pressing concerns of their own, to do with their own economic conditions, their own educational conditions,
their own prospects in the country, and they are concerned with those. They are concerned with their personal lives and whether a writer comes to speak at a literary festival or not, I would suspect, is a non-issue for the vast majority of
Muslims in the country
When lawmakers enact censorship they rather assume that the people doing the censoring are somehow morally or intellectually superior to people thought to be in need of censorship.
Tokyo recently enacted a law to give city government powers to censor manga on grounds of promoting illegal or immoral sexual activity.
escapistmagazine.com have published a fine example showing the dregs of intellect that may hide behind the label of 'censor'. This was taken from meeting minutes of the 2nd Miyazaki Prefectural Commission for the Promotion of Healthy
Youth Development . At this point, the commission was discussing boys love and ladies comics which, although not-pornographic, do tend to be rather risque.
Committee Member A:
In these books there is some violence and cruelty, and most have sexually provocative material.
In particular, many include scenes of women taking the lead ahead of men, and I think they'll promote the prejudiced view that women want this.
And if you keep getting these depictions of women taking the lead, matters soon develop in a homosexual direction and it must become difficult to develop sexually in a normal fashion, mustn't it?
This may not always be the case, but I think for the male consciousness they may end up thinking they cannot take the lead themselves, and so they tend to turn homosexual more often as a result.
I can't help but think it is very dangerous to our young people, should they see this sort of material mixed in amongst normal books.
No objection to these ideas were recorded in the minutes, but some comments have suggested this may be due to the Japanese custom of avoiding public criticisms of others, particularly those more senior.
The group suggested that some manga should be labeled as urgently designated harmful entertainment, but did not recommend any specific titles for the classification.
A book by Taslima Nasreen, which is banned in her native Bangladesh on grounds of blasphemy , has led to the arrest of a headteacher.
Yunus Ali was arrested from the KC Technical and Business Management College in Bangladesh this week after police discovered a copy of Nasreen's novel Lajja (Shame) in the college library.
Taslima Nasreen is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society and her book is regarded by Islamic extremists to be blasphemous. She was forced to flee Bangladesh in 1994 after radical Muslims objected to the novel, which depicts the
life of a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims in Bangladesh.
Police have said that Ali faced prosecution and could be jailed up to three years if found guilty.