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Monday, March 05, 2007

Hamas Bans Book of Palestinian Folk Tales

"RAMALLAH, West Bank: The Hamas-run Education Ministry has ordered an anthology of Palestinian folk tales pulled from school libraries and destroyed because of sexually explicit language, officials said Monday, in what critics charged was the most direct attempt by the Islamic militants to impose their beliefs on Palestinian society.

The book ban angered and worried many Palestinians, who long feared that Hamas would use its victory in last year's parliamentary election to remake the Palestinian territories according to its hard-line interpretation of Islam.

The 400-page anthology of folk tales narrated by Palestinian women was first published in English in 1989 by the University of California at Berkeley. It was put together by Sharif Kanaana, a novelist and anthropology professor at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University, and by Ibrahim Muhawi, a teacher of Arabic literature and the theory of translation." (for god's sake read more)

Usually it's the Israelis who ban books in the West Bank and Gaza. But it seems Hamas wants to compete, especially now that their political program is not going anywhere. Why sit around and twiddle their thumps: on with the "cultural" agenda.

The Minister of Education, Nasser al Sha'er has another reason besides "filthy expressions" to justify the ban (he denies the burning part): "the book is written in an informal language, which is inappropriate to be taught at schools, as schools teach the formal Arabic only." (read more)

See I can't comment on this without a string of "informal" curses delivered in my El Bireh accent--the only way I know how to curse-- gushing out of my mouth. So I'll keep my mouth shut, and you will use your imagination.

This is what happens when you give them the Ministry of Education. Remember what the Hamas minister of culture's first order of business was last year? To clean the place of belly dancers!! As if the place was crawling with them. Of course, he wasn't talking about those women belly dancing for their husbands.

In fact, I won't be surprised if this emboldened cultural crack down is something agreed on in Mecca. Give us the cultural sphere and keep the political sphere kind of deal with Fateh.

The article mentions that they are starting to ask women to wear the veil when they go into Hamas ministries (what an expression!) I can't confirm that.

But I can confirm that this book they are pulling out of school libraries (as if these libraries need further impoverishment), Speak Bird, Speak Again, is a classic. The banning, not the sexual references, is what is 3aib!

(thanks Jawad)


rabee said...

Do you know what the 3eib in the book is?

I read the english translation (translated from presumably a dead unknown language) and I'm not sure I could identify anything that could be seen as offensive by the brain-damaged honorable members of khamas.

The Observer said...

OMG! As if palestinians need more oppression!

Pal.Mooda said...

what next??!!
are they going to stop the Palestinians tell that stories to their kids!
first they refuse the PLO, then allows solders to have a beard, thin bans the book....
where are they taking us, Afghanestan??!!!

Deb said...

Interesting move. Often folk tales are not banned outright by political groups, but "revised" so that they better fit the political climate or regime.

I wonder what else, beside the sexual references, might be problematic here. Often folk tales are much more powerful than is often assumed-that, alas, is why folk tales (and folklore in general) were so central to the National Socialist movement in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

Your friendly neighborhood folklorist,


Amal A said...


I have no idea. And even if I knew I wouldn't be able to tell you because I'm a bin mu'dabeh who doesn't say eshya takhdesh el 7aya'

btw, I spent all day practicing how to curse in classical Arabic. lots of fun. try it.

Amal A said...

we just like to ask for more of everything, gives us room for bargaining.

Amal A said...

pal mooda,

they're not taking us anywhere. Too many checkpoints and borders are not under their control. So they may try to smuggle a bit of Afghanistan in. I said that about the jilbab but nobody believed me.

Amal A said...


it's their attempt to invent an Islamic tradition for Palestinians. So these folktales, in a Palestinian dialect, popular, relying on folk wisdom doesn't fit their vision of what a truly Muslim Palestine should be. They are attempting what you may call Islamoglobalization.

But this one is going to back fire on them. They should have stuck to the belly dancers. so to speak.

Anonymous said...

From my understanding, the book wasn't banned. It was taken off the curriculum. Which makes sense because Arabic classes are to teach classical Arabic not the dialect. The book is still available if people wish to read it.

Amal A said...


it was banned from school libraries. it was never an official part of the curriculum--just there as a reference for teachers to choose a story now and then to teach. Even that mild use got under someone's skin.

Do we read stories just to learn Arabic grammar? What about culture? What about heritage? what about my mother's and grandmother's stories? They didn't go to school, they didn't have formal education in classical Arabic. Do they have nothing to teach us at school? Much of our culture is oral and it should have a place in the curriculum as well as in our hearts.

Please people don't defend the indefensible just because Hamas is doing it.