The Prophet a Philanderer!

The Cairo Times reported that dozens of students, both male and female, took to the Street of Cairo to protest against the publication of a book which they deem blasphemous, and an insult to Islam, even though not many of them have read it. They have simply heard it said that the book describes the Prophet Muhammad as a "philanderer." 

Published in Beirut in 1983, Banquet for Seaweed, the work in question, a novel by Syrian writer Haider Haider, was reprinted this year in Cairo. This was a good excuse for the Islamist daily, Al Shaab to launch a new crusade against the impious novel. The articles in the Islamist daily, written by Mohammed Abbas, contain clear calls to murder the writer, and also roundly condemn the laxism of the censors, and the free and easy manner of the Ministry of Culture which published the book. Abbas also demands the court martial of the Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni. The writer of the articles ends with a list of authors he considers impious , adding their addresses and telephone numbers.

The odd thing is that the writer of these articles, M.Abbas, published in the eighties several novels containing more or less pornographic scenes.

The atmosphere in Cairo is tense, recalling the weeks before the assassination of writer Farag Foda in 1992, and the attempted murder of Naguib Mahfouz in 1994.

Al Hayat, the influential Arabic daily published in London, the Arab intelligentsia as partly to blame for their own situation, "In denouncing an author for his social or political positions, the intellectuals were responsible for his banishment; in justifying the politics of the military in power, they end up by legitimizing the fundamentalists; each time they separate the tolerable from the intolerable, they pronounce a verdict against themselves. The first act the Arab intellectuals ought to carry out is to establish a clear distinction between freedom of expression and the exercise of violence."

Source : Courrier International, No 499, 25 May –31 May, 2000.