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08 May, 2005

Cutting censorship: books

A useful article in Gulf News looks at the shifting culture of censorship in the UAE, in the light of Sheikh Nayhan's radical comments last month for full freedom of information.

Obvious censored topics, such as porn and gambling, are well known. But many other subjects are also unacceptable in the UAE. Dr Fatma Al Sayegh, Professor of UAE History at UAE University, the author of several books, was unable to publish an article in a local newspaper quoting explorer Wilfred Thesiger about the slave trade in Buraimi.

"The article was returned to me saying that articles on such topics as the slave trade, or Buraimi, or about disputes between the different emirates before independence were not allowed."

With many inter-emirate and tribal rivalries a matter of very recent history, it is understandable that to prevent re-fanning the flames there is an avoidance of the topic. But as Dr Al Sayegh points out, it is a matter of local history. Young nationals and young expats should be able to learn about the formation of the UAE, in part to fully appreciate the amazing feat of Sheikh Zayed in uniting the seven disparate emirates, creating the federation and bringing lasting peace.

Educators point out the difficulty of teaching subjects such as biology with the current censorship of books: "Learning about certain subjects, such as the reproductive system, suffers due to current limitations," one comments. Another, school principal Madhav Rao, says adolescents should get proper information:

"Facts … must be given to students on human anatomy and physiology to inculcate positive habits and interests."

According to Jumma Al Leem, head of the censorship section at the Ministry of Information, times are a'changing:

"We give permission to sell many books. It is not like before. No books are banned. We check books to see that there is correct information inside them. Now there are open areas, open skies and the internet. We do not stop any kind of religious books [from coming into the country], unless they talk about Islam and there is incorrect information."

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4 Comments:

Blogger Keefieboy said...

MinInf spokesman says "We give permission to sell many books. It is not like before. No books are banned."

Ahem. No books are banned? Get a grip matey.

The UAE is certainly moving in the right direction, but still has a long way to go. I can understand the thing about Buraimi, as I can also understand why they might want to hide other events preceding the formation of the Emirates.

08 May, 2005 19:46  
Blogger adnan said...

SecretDxb,

Thought you might be interested in this:

Emirates Write On 2005.

www.emirateswriteon.com

15 May, 2005 20:05  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Thank you for that! I don't know that I have any talent for actual fiction, but I love that website's design. Really clear and colourful without being heavy to load.

15 May, 2005 20:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

censorship is universal...Fatma would be censored anywhere depending what she wrote about...anyone who thinks there is a free press anywhere hasn't done anything worthwhile, like testing the boundries...if you're 'lucky', you only get blacklisted, locked up, or tortured...

16 October, 2006 23:36  

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