Friday, February 17, 2006

Mahfouz and al-Azhar

Egyptian Nobel Laureate in Literature Naguib Mahfouz is petitioning al-Azhar to approve his novel Children of the Alley. This work is a religious allegory long objected to by many conservative Muslims, and the reason one militant tried to kill Mahfouz in 1994. Other intellectuals are criticizing this decision, which they say sets a bad precedent of allowing religious authorities control over Egypt's intellectual and artistic life. I fear they could be right; in the present political climate, this will not remain the personal decision of one man, but an example of what many see as proper behavior. To be frank, however, I think more religious control is coming whether secular intellectuals like it or not. Already the AUC Library keeps off the shelves books which could arouse controversy among conservative students, including certain works dealing with early Islamic history. This trend of bowing to such sensitivities is growing, not receding.


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