THOU SHALT NOT OBJECT AS THINE HEAD I CENSOR

Date posted: July 17, 2008


 

I cannot believe that there came a day when I had to consult a dictionary for the definition of an adult.

"When you grow up" was the answer I got to most of the questions I asked in my childhood or in my troublesome teens be it as simple as wearing making or as complex as making babies. Time and experience answered a lot of these questions yet today I am not sure if there will ever come a point in my life when I will not need to be "more grown up" to be allowed to do, read, or watch what I chose? This is why I needed the help of the dictionary to see if I was adult enough or I still needed more growing up.

 

Wikipedia said that "The term adult describes any mature organism, but normally it refers to a human: one that is no longer a child / minor and is now either a man or a woman."

Other definitions stated 18 or 21 as a minimum age requirement.

Accordingly, I am an adult. Finally I am a grown up! Why do I not feel like an adult? Is it because I live in a country that insists that I am not, and will never be, old enough to watch movies uncensored? Is it because some big boys think that certain books and songs will contaminate my pure soul? Is it because people still blush – or pretend to blush – when the S-Word is mentioned? Is it because countless people act as my guardians – deciding what is good for me and what is not?

How adult should I feel when "Big Brother" decides to confiscate all the copies of Egypt's first adult graphic novel "METRO" because "HE" did not think it was appropriate for readers to be exposed to its "immoral offensive graphics and text"?

The story went as follows: Magdy El Shafee, a very talented graphic designer and writer, cooperated with Malamih, a very down to earth yet revolutionary publishing house, and after the usual hassle of printing, METRO was released early 2008. People who read it hailed the author for his illustrations and thoughts and everyone was happy. One morning, "Big Brother" decided that it was a publicly offensive novel and that it was his role to protect people's innocence. Public Morality police raided the publishing house, took all the copies and contracts, and then they took all the bookshops by storm to collect the bashful novel.
 

Between the agony of the author and the shock of the publisher – Mohamed El Sharkawy who was in prison at the time after his arrest on April 6

I read Humphrey Davies – the translator – note on wordswithoutborders.org:

 

 Magdy El Shafee's Metro, the first adult Arabic graphic novel, is set in a chaotic modern Cairo pulsing with financial and social insecurity. Shihab, a young software designer who has been forced into debt by corrupt officials, decides to get out of his dilemma by taking ?direct action?: robbing a bank, with the help of Mustafa, his loyal but reluctant sidekick. He finds himself caught in a vortex of financial and political corruption; the only relief comes from Dina, an idealistic journalist. In this extract Shihab plans and executes the robbery with surprising results. I was lucky to have one of the Arabic copies so I flipped through it looking for what could have possibly upset the big boys. Nothing clicked! Yes, there were a few words here and there along the lines of "little shit"and "asshole"and, whether we like it or not, they are part of many people's daily vocabulary. And yes, there were a few illustrations of Shihab and Dina in bed – no Kama Sutra here – just illustrations of naked bodies! The story itself sheds light on the government's corruption and on other social ailments that are consuming what is left of the Egyptian identity. 

Naira El Sheikh, the publisher's fiancee told Reuters that the police made the accountant, who was the only person in the office, sign an undertaking to ensure that any copies returned are sent to the vice police and she interpreted the raid as an act of revenge by the police, who were much criticized in 2006 and 2007 for their treatment of Sharkawi during an earlier spell in custody. Police also took away contracts and downloaded the phone number memory from the land line. The vice squad usually deals with sexual offences but Naira said the novel had no more sex than other recent publications which have not had trouble with the authorities.

 

Upon speaking to Mohamed El Sharkawy after his release, he said "I don't get it; METRO was in the Cairo book fair and it has been widely sold ever since – so where were they then? On April 20, Magdy El Shafee was subpoenaed and he was accused of "disturbing public morals". On April 21, right before my final release, I was questioned on the political overtones of the novel. We were both acquitted and the case is pending court review." Concluded the publisher who said in the author's defense that "METRO is reflective of the real society we live in yet it is pure fiction with no particular names or direct accusations."

 

Naira El Sheikh is more concerned with the illegal procedures of the confiscation; "the people who barged into the office had no court order, on what basis were they authorized to confiscate the book? Who gave them the authority or permission to withdraw all copies from bookstores before the court rules for or against the charges? Now the publisher lost money and the writer lost face while they will start investigating the case after the confiscation already took place."

 

Maybe they are right and I am wrong – after all Big Brother knows better!

 

But what is this now? A group on facebook created by Samir Ahmed demanding the confiscation on Mohamed El Tohamy's novel – A Human Being on Hold! Samir Ahmed has appointed himself as the public defender of morality, the judge on Mohamed El Tohamy's nationalism, and decided to fight evil with evil and let the cries of war fill the sky! Samir, in the description of the group says:

 

"This is a novel that has to be confiscated because it negatively portrays the Egyptian identity as though the Egyptian is a hypocrite price-less principle-less person." Then Samir goes on listing his personal interpretation of certain chapters and incidents in the novel and finally tells the author that if he did not know the difference between right and wrong he should ask a Sheikh instead of spreading his ill-intentioned thoughts that will damage him and his gullible readers. Finally he describes Mohamed as "a fake pretentious destructive storyteller"and he calls for confiscating the blasphemous novel before it reaches the hands and the minds of our little Egyptians.

 

I called Mohamed El Tohamy who was in shock: "I am 21. This is my first book. What have I done? Who is Samir Ahmed?" I comforted him and assured him that this was a sign of the success of his book and urged him to respond to the accusations on this group. Hashem Yehia, general manager of Dar Oktob – the publishing house – commented saying: "I was shocked when I knew of the existence of this group but when I found that only has seven members I knew that it means nothing. I do not know the owner of this idea but I know Mohamed El Tohamy and I know that he is an Egyptian who loves Egypt and he would never insult her on purpose or by mistake. Over and above we select carefully what we publish other wise we would have been millionaires in less than a year. I would advise the owner of this group to read for the purpose of enjoying a literary work rather than underlining every word that could be turned into an accusation. We believe in what we present and in whom we represent and no one could change our stance."

 

 

But, who is Samir Ahmed and who gave him a remote control that could mute the voice of anyone he did not like? Are we denied the right to choose because no one has faith in our capability of making the right choices? Will we be treated as mischievous kids no matter how old we grew? Is that how we settle our differences? I am right and you are wrong; hence, you are not worthy of living! Our opinions are different so you have to keep your mouth shut! I, the savior of the universe, have decided to turn you into a statue! I do not like you so I call for your death?!! Thou shalt not object as thine head I censor?

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