Internet brings Dawkins' The God Delusion to the Arab world

Internet brings Dawkins' The God Delusion to the Arab world May 13, 2016

Millions are reading The God Delusion in Arabic, according to Kacem El Ghazzali, above, an atheist writer from Morocco who has been living as a refugee in Switzerland since 2011.
In this article, El Ghazzali – a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) delegation to the UN Human Rights Council and the co-scientific director of the Raif Badawi Foundation – said that Dawkins was “surprised” when he was told that  The God Delusion had been translated into Arabic, and made available online.

He told me that he was not aware of the translation, and nor had he had any official request for it. I explained that it had been the work of an Iraqi friend called Bassam Al-Baghdadi, who lives in Sweden.
To say that Bassam’s work has been well received would be an understatement. The pdf was downloaded ten million times, with 30 per cent going to Saudi Arabia. Bassam said that there were over 1,000 downloads on the very first day after he uploaded it, and the numbers only climbed as the translation was picked up and shared on the blogs, websites and forums of prominent Arab atheists.

He added:

The book has prompted unprecedented controversy and debate in the Arab and Islamic worlds. The translator received death threats and accusations of conspiring with the Zionists to corrupt the youth. He was forced to close his social media accounts and stop posting for a while. Futile attempts have been made to resist the waves of reason now reaching Arab shores, through toothless apologetic articles and books. There is even a book called The Atheism Delusion, published by Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

In the Arabic translation of The God Delusion, under the title, Bassam added the words:

This book is banned in Islamic countries.

Said El Ghazzali:

It is fortunate and wonderful that the banning of books in the Arab and Islamic worlds is no longer feasible in our new age of information. I was able to read the book while I was still in Morocco, where I was born. Some atheist friends even managed to get hold of the book in Saudi Arabia. The dark times of censorship, in which knowledge for the people was confined to carefully curated books and resources, are gone and will never return.

He explained that it was by chance that had earlier discovered Dawkins when he stumbled across an official French translation of The Selfish Gene, in the library of his uncle who was very interested in biology.

I knew nothing of the author’s background at the time, nor did I understand very precisely the theme of the book. My uncle wasn’t there to explain it to me, so I took the book with me to my biology class and asked my teacher for clarification on certain aspects. He seized it from me, looking almost afraid, and shouted: ‘Don’t bring this filth here again! It is just bullshit!’

El Ghazzali added that,  though he was already a freethinker, free from religious dogma, when he read The God Delusion as a teenager in high school, the book touched him deeply and had a profound influence on the shaping of his thoughts and ideas.

The more I read the more I felt that I had a deep agreement with the author, and even a personal connection, as though the book had been written by somebody I knew closely. I felt as if he was speaking my inner thoughts and doubts.
I also remember how strongly The God Delusion provokes you to think, shattering misconceptions and flawed but long-cherished arguments. It was an important milestone in my intellectual journey to freedom, and as big a milestone in my personal life.
The name Richard Dawkins, along with those of other great thinkers, became synonymous to me with rationality and freedom of thought. I admired the concepts of free thought and expression, concepts that Western writers and their readers take for granted but which are taboos and even crimes in the world I came from. Even today, long after leaving the Arab world behind, the name Richard Dawkins brings the same feeling of compulsive fear, almost like a post-traumatic stress disorder.

Those who have never lived under such circumstances may find it difficult to understand or appreciate that feeling. Try to imagine reading a forbidden book in secret and then going out into the street or sipping tea with your family with a lurking, lingering fear that the criminal things you’ve been reading will somehow bubble out on their own, exposing your viciousness and treachery to everybody. Imagine the guilt of having such thoughts among people who would think you evil or even dangerous if they knew.
Eventually I could not keep my ‘criminal’ thoughts to myself any longer, and I paid the price for my honesty and my love for freedom. That’s why I’m writing these words not from Morocco, but from Switzerland. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Richard Dawkins, and to others who guided my journey from the hells of religious dogma to the oasis of free thought and enlightenment.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

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  • Brummie

    Will the world ever be free from such censorship and fear?
    Certainly the internet is the strongest weapon we have to eventually defeat it.

  • Broga

    This is brilliant. An absolutely tremendous breakthrough. The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in. “The God Delusion” is a superb book to be read by those who believe and will explode in the minds of those who already have doubts.

  • Borderline

    People only say they believe in God because:-
    A. They are forced to on pain of death.
    B. They are forced to otherwise they will be ostacised and marginalised by their friends and neighbours who are in the same predicament.
    C. They have to otherwise their family will reject them.
    That covers about 90% of those who say they believe.
    The remaining 10% … Probably do sort of believe but only because that’s the way they were dragged up by parents who are probably part of the 90%.
    The circle is now being broken. The pious are terrified of losing their power … And they will rant and scream and shriek to try and reverse the tide of reason.

  • barriejohn

    This is fantastic news. And we all know which countries top the list for accessing internet porn as well, don’t we? (Hint: “I’m slum”.) The mullahs and imams can take a running jump, because they can’t keep the blinkers on people for ever, hence the rise of barbarians like IS. They know that their day is over, but, like the Catholic Church, they just can’t accept it.

  • barriejohn

    Here’s another incredibly brave guy. I can’t say that I would be able to make a stand like this!

  • “If you trawl through comparative global economic and social statistics, it is not difficult to paint a bleak picture of Arab failure, based on a broad pattern of underperformance in investment, productivity, trade, education, social development and even culture. The total manufacturing exports of the entire Arab world have recently been below those of the Philippines (with less than one-third the population) or Israel (with a population not much bigger than Riyadh’s). From 1980 to 2000 Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Jordan between them registered 367 patents in the United States. Over the same period South Korea alone registered 16,328 and Israel 7,652. The number of books translated into Arabic every year in the entire Arab world is one-fifth the number translated by Greece into Greek.”
    The cost of Islam is high – any benefits? Any benefits at all, anything that might come close to the costs? No? No, I didn’t think so.

  • Kinder

    islam just retards, beggars and ruins … its leaders want to drag things back to as they were in the middle ages. And we in the civilised world are having to pick up the pieces and put up with its hateful influence. Just look at the news on any day and see how destructive islam really is.
    Time to wake up the the truth and kick islam out of europe. Let them fuck up their own countries … no problem. But get out of mine.

  • Broga

    @Kinder: No chance. They wont leave here because in their own country they don’t have free health care, state provided housing, free schools, state benefits and they sure as hell have not got free speech.
    Here, they can kick our arses with impunity, preach hate, insist that we must not say anything disrespectful about their beliefs , and from time to time murder someone like Lee Rigby.
    What is particularly attractive to them is that if they get prosecuted they can have legal aid amounting to £millions and insist that being booted out of here would damage their human rights so they stay.
    Now ask yourself. If you were they, would you move?

  • 1859

    This is great news indeed. We in the west take all these freedoms El Ghazzali describes for granted- they are, for us, self-evident truths like a gin and tonic or the rising of the sun. Because of this, my first reading of The God Delusion was not life-changing – it just repeated, and confirmed – very persuasively to be sure – conclusions I had arrived at as a teenager (I remember when I was 14 screaming at my devout catholic relatives ‘the pope shits and farts and has a dick just like everyone else!!’). But had I been born and bred in an Arabic society I guess I would have been so intellectually starved that reading a clandestine copy of The God Delusion would have turned my world view up-side-down. I give Mr El Ghazzali a big welcoming hug!

  • Laura Roberts

    Excellent work, kudos to Bassam Al-Baghdadi! Further evidence that the internet is indeed where religions go to die.