Rights groups file complaints against religious books

Yasmine Saleh
3 Min Read

CAIRO: Two human rights groups filed complaints against Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Center for publishing four books that they say tarnish the image of Islam. The United Group (UG) and Al-Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies filed four complaints to the Attorney General, saying the books include “material that will have a negative impact on the image of Islam, Yasser Farag, UG media consultant, told Daily News Egypt.

The Islamic Research Center was responsible for reviewing and approving the four books for publication, he explained.

“It is one of center’s main duties, and if they hadn’t [reviewed it] then they should be punished, Farag added.

The complaints are filed against the chairman of the Islamic Research Center, Sheikh Ali Abdel Baki, the books’ publishers, as well as all the libraries and publishing houses that printed and promoted the books, Farag said.

The four books are “Al-Tabaqat Al-Kobrah, “Kaladah Al-Gawaher, “Al-Sarem Al-Batar fi Altasaday Li Al-Saharah Al-Ashrar, and “Al-Dur Al-Manthour, Farag said. Reportedly, the books talk about wizardry and sorcery, detailing to readers ways to fend off witchcraft.

The prosecution is expected to investigate into the matter soon, Farag said. Negad El-Borai, head of UG’s legal unit, believes that “those who had long been fighting freedom of expression [deeming it] against religion should be dealt with in the same way they deal with books they accuse of being anti-Islamic.

She criticized scholars who censor books dealing with philosophy, poetry and music, accusing them of tarnishing Islam’s image.

“They want those books, the stupid books that talk about magic, drinking camels’ urine and breastfeeding fatwas, which are the biggest insult to Islam, El-Borai said.

While Abdel Baki was unavailable for comment, Sheikh Mahmoud Ashour, member of the Islamic Research Center, told Daily News Egypt that he is aware of neither the complaints nor the books.

In June 2007, Al-Azhar’s role in publishing books was the center of controversy when Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa was asked to withdraw a book in which he claimed that Prophet Mohamed’s (PBUH) companions used to drink his urine, considering it a blessed act.

It was then decided that Al-Azhar is not required to review books issued by the institution but rather review and approve all other religious books authored by intellectuals and scholars before they are sold in the market.

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