Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood Bookstores
Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood Bookstores
Saturday, August 30,2008 04:09

Muslim Brotherhood bookstores and publishing houses have been recently encountering a vehement crackdown by Egyptian state security forces,  which raided many bookstores including Al-Fath (Giza), Fairouz (Sharqiah), Dar Al-Bashir (Gharbiah), and others. Security forces seized all contents of the bookstores and abducted whoever they found inside.


Owners of religious bookstores got used to this annual crackdown by the State Security which claims that this is part of the censorship on "literary and artistic property.” These campaigns come before the Holy month of Ramadan and other important religious or political occasions.


Ali Abdul-Hamid owner of Al-Fairouz bookstore said the artistic property police escorted by state security forces with three trucks stormed the place and seized all the contents in more than 40 large cases and arrested one of the staff.


He added that they get accustomed to this kind of campaigns. However, a recent one was quite different since the seized contents valued by more than LE80,000. This was the fourth attack of its kind for his bookstore.


Regarding the future of lawsuits against him, he indicated that the seized contents normally cannot be restored but those arrested will be acquitted soon since all seized books are licensed by Al-Azhar and have international and local ISBN.


He was really disappointed at the heedlessness of the Arab and Egyptian professional unions.


"Publishing is a very critical field and should be strongly backed rather than ignoring its issues same like what happened with the Islamic Distribution and publishing House in the awake of the military tribunal against Brotherhood leaders", he said.


Alaa Zazou owner of Dar Al-Bashir has also suffered four security attacks during the last eight months and from arresting his female staff. "The regime wants to muzzle and devastate any Islamic activities and deny their right of spreading the sound moderate thought of Islam," he added.


He indicated that state security make up allegations to seize the contents of the publishing houses as part of the general government attitude towards the Muslim Botherhood.


He added that the Egyptian Publishers Union doesn"t actively support such issues but certain individuals might face these violations.


He called on the Arab Publishers" Union, commercial chambers, rights activists, and other organizations interested in advocating such issues to unite and face those violations against Islamist publishers.


Cynically, in the wake of previous attacks, a policeman and lawyer belonging to the state security apparatus contacted him to resell the seized books for higher prices.


Sami Ayyad from Nahwal-Nour bookstore indicated that such campaigns are politically motivated since there have been other Islamic bookstores supported by the security in order to face the politically-oriented publishers such as the Brotherhood. He also said the state security bugaboo chases those involved in politics and reform even shoemakers or coiffure"s not only bookstores or publishing houses.


He thought of changing the career but he"s been chained by the huge debts after the gross loss during last security attack when they seized books mounting to more than 80,000 pounds.


Assem Shalabi, Secretary General of the Egyptian Publishers Union, underscored that such security campaigns are seasonal during Ramadan and other religious events or heated political occasions such as amendment of the constitution or expanding emergency law.


"They confiscate books, printers, and computers as well as arresting staff. However such cases are not continued as a lawsuit, since all bookstores and publishing houses were legitimate and officially licensed. The regime wants to frustrate them via seizing huge costly products that cannot be restored", he added.


"unions try to legally back those suffering from such practices but the union"s efforts are much weaker to face the security even the union board members might be arrested. I myself was detained for three months on similar charges".


Regarding the impacts of these practices on the Egyptian book market, he said "They have passive impacts since religious books are the bestsellers in Egypt. Definitely this negatively affects the book industry in Egypt."