Intellectuals consider it ‘thought terror’
Yemeni novelist under fire
The Yemeni Ministry of Culture has ordered the confiscation of the novel
“Qwarib Jabaliah” or “Mountainous Boats” by award-winning writer Wajdi al-Ahdal
Last week it also ordered the closure of the Ubadi Publication Center, which published the book, and officials say charges will be laid against al-Ahdal.
The Minister of Culture claimed the novel insults morality, religion and conventions of Yemeni society.
A Yemeni official at the ministry said the publisher did not obtain a permission from the ministry.
“The novelist used religious terms to illustrate sexual scenes, and obscene sexual phrases that go against our religious and ethical conventions,” he added.
He stressed these procedures will lead to the prosecution of the writer and the publisher. He refused to give any details which he said will be presented later to show that the novel insults Islam. He pointed that “such details will be presented as proof to court when the trial starts,” adding that the government would respect the court verdict.
In 2000, the al-Thaqafiah weekly editor-in-chief, Samir al-Yousofi, was imprisoned and prosecuted for republishing “Sana’a: an Open City” by famous Yemeni short story writer Mohammed Abdul Wali who died in the 1970s. He was accused of blasphemy and insulting Islam.
The then Minister of Information Abdul Rahman al-Akwa stood by al-Yousofi who was harassed by the Islah party.
The case was later dropped as high ranking officials intervened to settle it.
The confiscation of al-Ahdal’s novel has created ripples among intellectuals and literary men in Yemen. They were surprised by the action since there are now plans underway for celebrating Sana’a as an Arab cultural capital in 2004.
Al-Ahdal told the Yemen Times that sectarian individuals are behind the charge, and they’re using the false charge that he insulted Islam.
“It was because the novel mentions the word ‘Zaidids,” referring to the Zaidid doctrine, belonging to Shiit. It is also because Sana’a was the setting of the events of the story of the novel,” he said.
“They misinterpreted and misunderstood the novel. The word ‘Zaidids’ did not mean to insult the zaidids or the city of Sana’a at all,” al-Ahdal pointed out.
He added that his novel was published in ‘al-Thaqafia weekly in 1998 in a series and no one showed any objection.
A good number of Yemeni intellectuals strongly condemned this procedure of the ministry. They considered this act as thought terrorism, being exercised against intellectuals in all Arab countries.
In a press statement they expressed their full support for the novelist and the publisher in their battle against what they described as aggression and harassment.
They accused critic Abdulsalam al-Kibsi who lashed out against the novelist of instigating the official institutions against the novel.
Al-Kibsi sent a letter to the publisher and other officials, threatening the publisher of severe punishment if his house prints the novel, which he claimed insulted God and all people of Sana’a. The statement of intellectuals said the cultural ministry based its procedure against the novelist on al-Kibsi claims.
They described al-Kibsi as a sectarian regionalist who did not study the novel critically but meant to hinder this rising talent. He was even accused of being unable to understand a shrewd novelist as al-Ahdal. They asked him to apologize to culture, intellectuals, the novelist and the publisher.
Al-Ahdal has already published at least seven short stories and novels. He gained the first position in the Arab Youth Ceremony in Egypt in 1998, the al-Afif Cultural Prize for short story in 1997. He was also given the President’s Award for short story in 1999