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Book considered "insulting" to religious beliefs

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 28 April 2011 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns the filing of a complaint by a group of neo "actio popularis" lawyers against the storybook "Where is Allah?", by Karam Saber, published in November 2010. On 12 April 2011, the lawyers submitted Communiqué #660 to the Attorney General's Office in Beni Suef, arguing that book contained statements deemed "insulting to religious beliefs".

ANHRI expresses deep concern over the return of religious and political cases - so called "Hesba cases" - following the revolution of 25 January, which fought to secure the freedom of the Egyptian nation. It is unacceptable for the authorities to impose restrictions on art and creativity and drag art works through the courts. Hesba cases were the Damocles sword hanging over creativity and freedom of expression under the former regime, which the Egyptian people overthrew in the January uprising.

Saber told ANHRI that he has learned that his book has been forwarded to the committee of senior scholars at Al-Azhar Al-Sharif University for content assessment. ANHRI said, "The subjection of art works to religious assessment is totally unacceptable and constitutes an assault on the freedom to create and express. Works of art should not be subject to any control that may have a negative impact on creativity in Egypt. These works should only be assessed according to critical and creative standards. The only measure in this regard is the public, who will boycott what they think is inappropriate, without prior guardianship of their right to know and judge."

ANHRI recalls that the former regime was reluctant to address this issue, resulting in a surfeit of Hesba cases. The organisation demands that the Egyptian authorities take action to reflect the will of the revolution and undertake the necessary legislative amendments to abolish these cases that endanger freedom of expression and creativity in Egypt.

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