As governments and other organizations try to crack down on the spread of material they find offensive, the popularity of those works rises when they are labeled “deviant.”
The Vatican didn’t learn from the protests of the theatrical release of The DaVinci Code, which caused movie ticket and book sales to rise amid the controversy because people wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Now the Vatican recently condemned Sister Margaret A. Farley’s 2006 book Just Love, A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.
As a result, the book rose from 142,982 to 16 in Amazon’s overall rankings; it was also the #1 best-selling religious studies book as of last Tuesday.
Censorship at the state level is hardly a new trend, though. The leaders of the so-called “civilized” world have a long history of prosecuting and imprisoning members of society who dare to speak their minds and go against the grain.
Socrates was exiled from his beloved Athens for “corrupting the young” (he committed suicide rather than leave his home); Martin Luther was branded a heretic by the Catholic Church for his 95 Theses calling for reform; and Thomas Paine had an arrest warrant issued by England because of his groundbreaking series The Age of Reason, preventing him from ever setting foot on British land again.
Today, books continue to be challenged or banned in the United States and around the world. You would think we would have learned from history, but the scary reality is that sometimes the authors themselves are still being prosecuted and imprisoned by world governments for their publications and free thoughts.
Remember the death threats and subsequent manhunt for Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, which captivated the world after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwā against him in 1989?
This practice of state-sponsored censorship is alive and well in the year 2012.
A Maldivian blogger, known for his liberal views on religion, was in intensive care on Tuesday after being stabbed by an attacker outside his home in the capital of Male.
On Sunday, Pakistan officially denied its citizens access to Twitter in response to “blasphemous” material posted on the popular website.
A senior government official said, “They [the ministry] have been discussing with them [Twitter] for some time now, requesting them to remove some particular content.”
Pakistan previously blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and some 1,000 other sites for two weeks in May 2010 over “blasphemous” content.
A 26-year-old Kuwaiti man was convicted of “endangering state security,” and given a ten-year prison sentence last Monday for “insulting Mohammad” on Twitter.
In May, state officials in Bangladesh banned a novel by Humayun Ahmed, a popular writer, for allegedly “distorting history” regarding how the nation’s first president and his family were murdered in 1975.
Now a Bangladeshi court has issued an arrest warrant for Salam Azad, the writer of Bhanga Math (Broken Temple). The 2003 novel was banned for blasphemy by the Bangladeshi government in 2004 because it allegedly contains remarks against the prophet Muhammad.
A judge in Dhaka accepted the petition and issued the order in response to a complaint from a Muslim activist who accuses the author of insulting Muhammad and “hurting religious sentiment” in the novel.
According to a report by the Associated Foreign Press, the Dhaka police confirmed the warrant.
Azad told the AFP that the case was part of a smear campaign against him launched by a senior official from the ruling Awami League party.
“I became his target after I protested his grabbing of Hindu property. He has already filed a case against me,” he said.
Azad’s other novels include The Grave, The Role Of India In The War Of Liberation Of Bangladesh, and Atrocities on the Minorities in Bangladesh.
It should be clear to anyone with common sense and reason that banning a book doesn’t work to suppress the spread of it. Maybe what governments should do is make it required reading- that certainly stopped many a book from being read in high school.
Come to think of it, that is rather fitting since censorship in any form is childish.
For more information on the Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge project and the complete list of titles covered, please visit the official website at http://www.deepforestproductions.com/BBARK.html