Members of a group called “Lawyers without Restrictions” filed a complaint on Wednesday with Egypt’s attorney-general demanding a ban on the publication of the famous oriental literary compilationOne thousand and One Nights due to the book’s “obscene” content.
Members of the group held officials of the Cultural Centers Authority responsible for allowing the book’s publication and called for the application of Article 178 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which stipulates a monetary fine and a two-year prison sentence for anyone found publishing obscene material.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement on Thursday condemning the complaint as “a violation of freedom of expression and a restriction of creativity.” The statement went on to point out that the Egyptian government had exploited similar complaints in the past to punish authors and journalists critical of government policies.
ANHRI Director Gamal Eid criticized Culture Minister Farouk Hosni for adopting a “passive stance” on the issue. “He didn’t lift a finger when Ibdaa Magazine was banned last April following a similar complaint,” Eid said.
Hosni, for his part, said One thousand and One Nights had not been written by one particular author, but was rather part of man’s cultural heritage. “Heritage books should not be viewed instinctually,” he said, noting that the poems of Abu Nawas also contained obscene words but were nevertheless available in all heritage libraries.
“Does this mean we should destroy all ancient Egyptian statues because of their nudity?” Hosni asked rhetorically.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.