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Novel banned for allegedly defaming historic religious figure

(BCHR/IFEX) - BCHR has recently learned that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA) has once again refused to approve distribution of the novel "Omar . . . A Martyr" by Bahraini novelist Abdulla Khalifa. Omar Ibn Al-Khattab was the second Islamic Caliph after the prophet Mohammed and is regarded by Muslims as one of the "four righteously guided Caliphs".

The Ministry of Information (MI) asked the MIA to evaluate the novel from a Sharia' (religious) point of view. MIA did not approve the novel, alleging that it defames a religious figure in a manner "fomenting sectarianism" in the society. This is very much disputed by those who have managed to read the novel.

BCHR's source indicated that the MIA's recommendation to ban distribution of the novel was based on a sentence reading that "Ibn Al-Khattab wobbled", which was considered libel to the second Caliph.

This is the second novel by Khalifa banned in Bahrain. His earlier novel, "Husain's Head", was put forward for publication inside Bahrain, but the MI responded by prohibiting its publication. This attitude has forced writers to seek publication outside Bahrain, as Khalifa did for his latest novel.

BCHR expresses concern over persistent censorship of all forms of freedom of expression in Bahrain, including the publication of books and novels. An earlier campaign by the international and local communities sought approval for publication of a history book, "Memory Exploitations: In a Pluralistic Society, Saddled with History", by Dr Nader Kathem. It is a collection of a series of historical articles published by the author in the local press.

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