Nawal El Saadawi

I’m going to be out this weekend at The New Humanism conference. One of the highlights will surely be meeting (or at least seeing in person) the writer Salman Rushdie.

I’m also reminded of Rushdie’s story because of another controversy.

Nawal El Saadawi is a 76-year-old, Egyptian, feminist author. She’s been under fire from Egyptians before. Once, she advocated the idea that “children [should] be named after their mothers, not fathers.” Blasphemy.

Recently, she published a play called God Resigns in the Summit Meeting. However, the publisher Mahmoud Madbouli has recalled the book, shredding all copies, because it “offends religion.”

In response, Saadawi has said:

My book contains nothing offensive to religion. This confiscation is a violation of the reader’s right to choose and judge the worth of a book for themselves. These people want to stifle our imagination. If my ideas are questioned and suspected, they should be debated, not suppressed. A work of art should be judged by the critics, not religious clerics or government bureaucrats…

I feel worried about the future of Egypt whose young people are denied a real chance to be educated and exercise their minds. Confiscation provides a breeding ground for extremism.

There are groups “accusing her of apostasy and disrespect for the principles of Islam” who would like to see her tried in court (and you know where that could lead…).

The Arab Women’s Solidarity Association has a petition you can sign to show support for Saddawi. Part of it reads:

We call upon all the men and women of conscience all over the world, in the Arab countries and in Egypt to take the action they see fit in order to defend freedom of thought and creativity. We call upon all the associations and organizations of civil society, the unions of workers, on journalists, on all free women and men in the different countries, on the associations and organizations of women and on democratic progressive political parties to join us in our efforts to defend freedom.

Frequent commenter on this blog Mriana has met Saadawi. When recounting their meeting, Mriana had this to say:

I explained that I’m a writer working on getting something published and I’m always talking about these issues on various boards and other places, but afraid to write about it because it’s all been said before. Well, [Saadawi] gently squeezes my arm, smiles at me, and says, “Write your hatred. Write your hatred.” She stated getting published is hard (still gripping my arm), but “you must write your hatred for these things even if it’s been said before, because you are saying it in your words and your way. Someone will listen.” She never once lost her smile either as she encouraged me to write about all these things.

From one person who needs to have her voice heard to another.

Sign the petition.


[tags]atheist, atheism, The New Humanism, conference, Salman Rushdie, Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian, feminist, God Resigns in the Summit Meeting, Mahmoud Madbouli, Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, Arab[/tags]

  • Mriana

    Yes, I would hate to see anyone killed over religion. It would be history repeating itself and I find that religion is more often than not a source of misery, not a source of comfort. I guess that is why I became a Humanist.

    She said in her speech, which I highly agree with, that religion is a means to control and opression, adding that even George Bush and the Religious Right attempt to do the same thing in this country. Then she said we are going backwards in Human Rights not forward and I have to agree with that too.

    This woman has been fighting for Human Rights all her life and it would be a shame to see history repeat itself, esp with someone so wonderful as this woman. I was compelled to meet her for some reason after reading a brief exerpt from her story and I’m very glad I did. I have even more reason to help carry the torch against such autrocities.

    I do hope others will try and help her. Thanks Hemant for posting this. :)

  • Richard Wade

    Who would be the ones to help her? How sweetly ironic and poetic it would be for atheists to pool their money to sponsor her to come to the U.S. for safety.

    I’d donate.

  • Mriana

    She is currently in the U.S., but I’m not sure if she gets to stay though. If she is only here to speak, then that would be very ironic if a bunch of Atheists helped her to stay in here. It would help to break a stupid stereotype.

  • Richard Wade

    She said in her speech, which I highly agree with, that religion is a means to control and opression, adding that even George Bush and the Religious Right attempt to do the same thing in this country.

    Hmm. If she has spoken against He Who Would Be King and his holy men they might not let her stay. They also might not want to piss off the Egyptians, with whom they have a fragile alliance.

  • Mriana

    Oh brother, don’t get me started on the Shrub and his Holy Horrors Religious Reich. Trust me, I’ve probably said far worse things she did about the Shrub and I’m still in the U.S., but then again, I was born here. Kind of hard to deport someone who is naturally born in a country.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana,
    Hey they refused entry to Cat Stevens in 2004 just because he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and started wearing a funny little hat. The rumors about him supporting terrorists turned out to be baseless.
    Careful about using well known references to George the Usurper. We have to keep coming up with new ones or his evil web watchers will find us and drag us before the Unlidded Eye.

  • Richard Wade

    Recently, she published a play called God Resigns in the Summit Meeting. However, the publisher Mahmoud Madbouli has recalled the book, shredding all copies, because it “offends religion.”

    What, Madbouli didn’t read it before publishing it? Right. Looks like the Muslim Mafia made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Where can I get a copy?


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