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Khalil al-Anani

Egypt's book execution committee

Burning ambitions: Egypt's reputation goes up in smoke

Date of publication: 17 April, 2015

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Comment: Egypt has regressed to the Dark Ages, burning books it says were "inciting terrorism" - and yet most of those destroyed did nothing of the sort, says Khalil al-Anani.

The title of this article is not an exaggeration - it is the name of the committee formed by Egypt's education ministry to review and dispose of books it believes "incite violence and terrorism".

In a poorly directed scene from Europe's Dark Ages, officials burned a number of books in a ceremony attended by students at a Cairo school.

What is sickening about this low scene is that it followed "security orders" and was attended by an interior ministry representative, according to statements by the education ministry, published in Egyptian newspapers.

To make matters worse, the book burning ceremony took place with the national anthem playing in the background, while the perpetrators of this crime waved the Egyptian flag, as if they were on a national mission.

The woman leading the "book execution conquest", Buthaina Kishk, was one of the candidates for the position of education minister, and has good relations with security authorities and the interior ministry.

Kishk seems to be trying to make offerings of obedience and loyalty for her masters to reward or promote her in appreciation of her efforts in fighting "extremism".

Ironically, many of the burnt books did not even promote Muslim Brotherhood ideology, as claimed by the officials.

Most of the books actually tackled general topics, such as Islamic history, while others included superficial topics, such as the world of jinn and demons. These books did not pose a threat to the education process.

Even more ironic was that some of the burnt books actually promoted "enlightenment", which could have helped with the "religious revolution" led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president, and propagated by his "enlightened" media people.

     This shows how ignorant and foolish the members of the committee are.

These books included Islam and the Foundations of Government by Sheikh Ali Abdel Raziq, Islamic Statecraft by Abdel Razzaq al-Sanhuri, and Islamic Reform by Abdel Halim Mahmoud, as well as other books by journalists and intellectuals affiliated with the state and its political system, such as Samir Ragab and Ragab al-Banna.

This shows how ignorant and foolish the members of the committee are.

The book burning ceremony, held in a schoolyard in Egypt, reminds us of similar crimes committed in different eras throughout history. In 212 BC, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the burning of hundreds of history books in fear of their influence on the Chinese unity.

When the Mongols invaded Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, they burned books and threw them in the Tigris river, until the ink from the books turned the water black.

In addition, nearly one million books and manuscripts were burnt following the fall of Granada in 1492 and the subsequent atrocities. Today, these crimes reached Egypt, where every day there is an example of ignorance, backwardness and lack of wisdom.

"Executing books" is part of a wider series of executions in Egypt, starting with people and ending with consciences and minds. I do not know how this Dark Age will be described in our history with anything other than an age of "false enlightenment".

Tis is an edited translation of the original Arabic.

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