A book written in Arabic by a British-Arabic author and translated by a Moroccan translator was on sale in a Lebanese supermarket yesterday, despite warnings from Lebanese officials that it could be offensive.
The book is called The Book of Arabic.
The Lebanese government is in the process of negotiating a book with an Arabic publisher to mark a 10-year anniversary of the book’s publication.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry was not available for comment on the sale of the text.
But the Lebanese bookseller’s owner, Ahmed Abu Shaban, told Al Jazeera that he had received a letter from the Lebanese government in April informing him that the book was banned in Lebanon and asking for him to stop selling it.
“They said that we are violating the ban by selling it to foreign nationals,” Abu Shabaan said.
The text of the Lebanese-language book is “not appropriate for public consumption”, he added.
“We had no right to sell the book.”
The Lebanese foreign ministry said it was aware of the incident and had informed the Lebanese ambassador to Britain and the Lebanese Ministry of Culture and Sports.
“We take the matter seriously, and the ministry will take all necessary steps to prevent this from happening again,” a statement from the ministry read.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism, which has close ties to the Lebanese authorities, also confirmed the ban on the book, but declined to say if the books were confiscated.
“The ministry is taking this matter seriously and is considering all the possible measures to avoid this happening again, ” a ministry statement said.
“Any violation of the ban will be considered a crime and any foreign nationals who violate the ban may face fines and/or detention.”
A Lebanese journalist, Abdelkarim Abdel-Saleh, said he bought the book on Monday from a shop in the northern town of Maaloula.
He said the Lebanese officials told him the book could cause offence.
“I thought this book was supposed to be a gift to British citizens and Lebanese people,” he told Aljazeera.
“When I asked them what it was they said: ‘it’s offensive’.
I thought they were joking.
The Lebanese Ministry for Culture and Tourism confirmed the sale, but did not say whether it had received the letter. “
But I have no other choice.”
The Lebanese Ministry for Culture and Tourism confirmed the sale, but did not say whether it had received the letter.
Al Jazeera’s Nasser Abdulla, reporting from Beirut, said that the incident “could have potentially serious consequences for Lebanese society and the wider Middle East” if it spread. “
If they violate the prohibition against selling books, they may face criminal charges and penalties.”
Al Jazeera’s Nasser Abdulla, reporting from Beirut, said that the incident “could have potentially serious consequences for Lebanese society and the wider Middle East” if it spread.
‘No place for vulgarity’Al Jazeera has spoken to several people in Lebanon who said they had bought the text online, or had it printed out for them.
The seller of the English-language version of The Book in Arabic, who asked to remain anonymous, told us that the text was sold by “a Lebanese-born, Moroccan-owned bookshop” in Maalouya, in the south of the country.
“We bought the books from a Lebanese-based bookshop in Maamouna in the southern Lebanese province of Baalbek, on March 12, 2016, on sale at a price of approximately $15 (AU$23),” he said.
“They [the Lebanese government] had no rights to sell or give it to anyone.”
The seller said the text appeared to be in Arabic but that he was not aware of any restrictions.
He said he had bought it in the hope of helping the Lebanese people, and not to offend anyone.””
If you read the book in English, you will see that it is very serious, and if you read it in Arabic you will find it very vulgar,” he said about the book.
He said he had bought it in the hope of helping the Lebanese people, and not to offend anyone.
“It’s a book about literature and history.
It’s a history book, a history about the Arab world.
If you read about the past and how it went wrong, you can see that the Arab nations were wrong to intervene and destroy their country.
So I want to help them.”
What do I say to the people who buy it?
I say: ‘I don’t care what you think about the books, you are not allowed to read them.’
“The book is in English but I’m not sure if it will be translated or if it is Arabic,” he added, adding, “I don, and I don, because it’s too offensive to me.”
A book shop employee who did not want to be named told Al jazeera that the sale was an “accident” and that the shop did not “know anything” about the text or the seller