Egyptian Court Bans Literature Journal For Publishing Blasphemous Poem

EgyptA respected literature journal, Ibdaa (or Creativity) has been banned by an Egyptian court for publishing blasphemous poem by poet Helmi Salem that compared God to a villager who feeds ducks and milks cows. It is only the latest crackdown on poets who have used the Koran or references to God in artistic ways.

The poem titled “On the Balcony of Leila Murad” says in part: “God is not a policeman, who catches criminals from the back of their neck. He is a villager who feeds the ducks and feels the cow’s udders and squeezes them with his fingers and yells: ‘Plenty of milk.'” The poem then goes on to compare God to a traffic cop.

The court deemed the reference as insulting to God. It was the words of Judge Mohammed Attiya and not Helmi Salem that proved the most offensive and disturbing in the case. The judge lectured the publisher that a “freedom should be responsible in serving society and should not be misused.” If a freedom is defined and tolerated only to the degree that it is viewed as serving society, it is not much of a freedom. Citizens are given liberties only at the whim and discretion of petty little tyrants like Judge Attiya.

Artists and authors are facing greater pressures in Egypt due to the rise of conservative Islamic groups which use anti-blasphemy laws to censor speech.

Jordan recently arrested a poet for blasphemy. It appears that poets have suddenly become a concern for the authoritarian set. In Burma, a poet was given 20 years for an insulting poem.

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14 thoughts on “Egyptian Court Bans Literature Journal For Publishing Blasphemous Poem”

  1. Mike A.,

    Everyone has to give up something when their guy gets elected, or in the case of Bush, appointed as President. If the left has given up jobs that’s a small price compared to what the right gave up to get Bush appointed – their souls. And credibility. And humanity. And common sense. And ability to be anything but venal and selfish self-aggrandizing war criminals.

  2. You don’t understand, Voltaire. With the election of Pres. Obama, we liberals no longer have to have jobs.

  3. Omar K., you make an interesting point. Although you may be speculating, it makes a great deal of sense. I believe that there are certain universal traits among governments. One of them is to make concessions to powerful internal political interests in order to accomplish goals deemed more important to the national interest. The Obama administration’s reluctance to commence investigations into violations of national and international laws against torture is a perfect example of this trait. The difficulty is that this approach seldom produces the intended result because it is short-sighted.

  4. This is a dangerous precedent given that Egypt has long been a bastion of creative expression in the ME, particularly in the field of movies and literature. The irony is that the US funds the Egyptian government to the tune of billions of dollars while the Egyptian government-controlled media regularly publishes and broadcasts anti-semtitic and anti-American nonsense.

    The following is speculation on my part, but it’s possible that some sort of behind the scenes horse-trading is occurring here between the fundamentalist clerical establishment and the Egyptian government with respect to the Israeli/Palestinian question. For example, in Saudi Arabia there is basically an unspoken agreement that the clerics are the final authority on domestic and social policies as long as they refrain from criticizing the Saudi royal family. It’s not unlikely that the Egyptian government is allowing certain conservative-friendly judges to flex their muscles in exchange for silence or support on Egypt’s position on Hamas. Again, speculation on my part, but I’m curious to see how this plays out.

  5. I think they did not like the reference to the cows udder/teats. To sexual in nature. God was just an excuse.

  6. These stories are appearing on a daily basis. What can one say that has not been said before? We need a great deal more insulting poetry in the world.

  7. Just because I feed ducks, does that make me a deity? Probably to the Ducks, I am.

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