Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hamas bans Folktales book


Hamas-led Palestinian authorities banned an anthology book of folktales titled “Speak Bird, Speak Again,” according to the Associated Press. Palestinian Education Minister Nasser Shaer told the AP that copies of the books were removed from school libraries because of “clear sexual expressions” in the book. As many as 1,500 of the books were destroyed, the AP reported Tuesday (March 6, 2007). The book lists for $356 on for a single used copy. At that price, the censors could have made $534,000 if they sold the books instead of burning them.

West Bank novelist Zakariya Mohammed told the AP he fears banning Speak Bird, Speak Again is just the beginning of censorship under the Hamas-led government. “If we don’t stand up to the Islamists now, they won’t stop confiscating books, songs and folklore,” he told the AP.

From the author of Speak Bird, Speak Again

Professor of psychology and anthropology at Bir Zeit University, Ashraf Kana'nah, has commented on the decision of the Palestinian ministry of education to burn copies of the book he collated with his colleague, Dr Ibrahim Mhawi. The book, collated from Palestinian oral narratives, is entitled "Speak bird, speak again". Dr Kana'nah described the ministry's decision as "cultural terrorism"; while the ministry claims that stories in the book contain "immoral expression".

Kana'nah told Ma'an's correspondent in Ramallah that "those who conducted such measures are not related to academia", since he found no more than three references to sexual activity in a 400 page book.

Dr Kana'nah expressed his disturbance over the burning of his book, saying that "every book one writes is continuity of his own ideology, as much as the son is the biological continuity of his father." He added that it was the ministry of culture who decided to distribute the book at the schools, and they also funded the printing of 3000 copies.

The book was misinterpreted, explained the author, "since it was not meant to be taught to children, as it is taught at the masters and doctorate level [in literature studies]". Kana'nah himself taught the study of the book in the masters programs at Bir Zeit University. In addition, the English version of the book is studied as part of literature courses at both Berkeley and Chicago Universities. It was the best-selling Palestinian academic text book in foreign countries.

"The book should be read by teachers at schools, rather than be given to students, and if the teacher is embarrassed to read some expressions, which the students hear every day, he does not deserve to be a teacher," declared Dr Kana'nah.

Dr Kana'nah is a seventy-one year old professor of sociology and anthropology. The book, "Speak bird, speak again", first published in 1989, has become one of the most studied works of Palestinian literature, sharing some 45 stories detailing popular culture in Palestine dating back many centuries.

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