Egyptian Islamists go a bit crazy...
They want to censor one thousand and one nights...
How come the Muslim world – at its moments of greatest crisis – will invariably manage to deflect its energies into the most preposterous cultural, historical or religious questions?
Egyptian Islamists have said they want to censor "salacious" passages from the One Thousand and One Nights, one of the Muslim world's priceless literary works. This is the same country whose prelates once ordered a university professor to divorce his wife because he had dared to suggest a reinterpretation of the Koran.
Ayman Abdel Hakeem, a member of the "Islamist Lawyers without Shackles" group, wants to censor the tales told in the Arabian Nights because the epic "contains profanities which cannot be acceptable in Egyptian society." The very idea of an insatiable woman offends him. "We understand that this kind of literature is acceptable in the West, but here we have a different culture" he is reported as saying.
True, this odd lawyers' group has been making similar statements for more than a decade, but the idea that the Muslim world should not be able to read about Sinbad the Sailor or Aladdin is obviously ridiculous.
Saudi Arabia, too, is just now bound up in a "fatwa" war by ulemas who are variously giving or condemning new religious rulings. Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, for example, claims that the Koran does not specifically forbid music – even though the Saudi authorities do not allow concerts. Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al-Obeikan ruled that a woman cannot walk alongside a man – although he is the same divine figure who also suggests that two of the five daily prayers might be combined, thus making life easier for Saudi merchants constrained to close their shops five times a day. Who would believe that this is the same Saudi Arabia which is trying to fight off al-Qa'ida bombers, and fears that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons?