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No book censorship at Sharjah book fair

Filed on October 17, 2015 | Last updated on October 25, 2015 at 04.43 pm
There has been unprecedented demand for publishers space for the 4th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair, SIBF, which takes place from November 4th -14th at the Expo Centre.

The vision and directives of Dr Shaikh Sultan have contributed towards promoting the culture, knowledge and love of the written word, not only in the UAE but also in the Arab region and the world. The Sharjah book fair has now risen to be amongst the top fairs in the world, said Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, on the sidelines of the Frankfurt Book Fair

The Sharjah Book Fair is the brainchild of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who has sought through it to instil a love of reading among the people of Sharjah and the UAE, as well as to convey Sharjah's Arab-Islamic cultural message to the world, said Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri who is also director of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF). "Dr Shaikh Sultan believes that any nation's journey towards renaissance and development can only be achieved through knowledge, which begins with nurturing one's mind with culture and knowledge with the main source being literature. He also believes that no nation can move forward and achieve a better future without culture and science."

The Sharjah book fair was launched in 1982 under the name of 'The Arab Book Fair', but with a rather small attendance, much to the resentment of publishers. This prompted Dr Shaikh Sultan to buy books from the participating publishing houses in support of literature as well as of a cultural project he predicted would be successful, not just locally and regionally, but also internationally.

Al Ameri said: "It is a record-breaking year for the 34th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) with 1,502 publishing houses from 64 countries, including Poland, Peru and Ghana, Albania, Argentina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Magnolia, and Serbia, all set to take part in SIBF for the first time. Last year, the book fair saw the participation of 1,256 publishers from 55 countries. SIBF is also breaking the record for the number of books displayed with 1.5 million titles that will be available in 210 languages.

The foreign section of non-Arabic languages will constitute 45 per cent of the total books on display, with more than 100 foreign languages, he said adding that as many as 50 publishing houses from Russia and China are taking part.

This year's exhibition space is 16,000 square metres, compared to 13,500 square metres last year. This success has come out as a result of the vision and efforts of an intellectual leader and ruler who advocated literature, culture and science."

Al Ameri added that the fair is not just about numbers. "It is an exhibition, a cultural and literary festival that offers an inspirational platform for industry professionals, academics, artists, and the public, as well as all family members. All events and programmes, organised during the 11-day fair, as well as guests hosted by the fair, are part of our strategy that aims to foster a love of reading and make it a lifelong habit among Emiratis. We seek through these diverse events and activities to make Sharjah and the UAE a bridge of communication between cultures and inter-religious dialogues."

Al Ameri said the growing number of visitors and participants reflects the positive impact of the fair on the book industry worldwide, and on Emirati society. He said visitors from the GCC and other Arab countries come specifically to be part of this international literary extravaganza.

He clarified that the Sharjah Book Authority has adopted the policy of communication and dialogue with various publishers, intellectuals and writers, not only at the local level, but also at the global level.

"We seek through our participation in international book fairs and forums not only to promote SIBF and highlight Sharjah as a capital of culture and publishing in the Middle East, but also to convey Shaikh Sultan's message for promoting Arab culture and true Islam, its mercy and tolerance, to the world," Al Ameri said.

Censorship

"The best way to fight books that may contain subversive ideas is not to prevent them, because when a book is banned, it is more in demand.

We fight unenlightened thought through moderate enlightenment and moderate ideology; we fight it with powerful and true thought. We believe that literature and knowledge enlight-en minds and help eradicate ignorance and backwardness.

"He said censorship is applied on intellectual property rights and prices only.

"We, at the Sharjah Book Fair do not allow piracy or infringement of proprietary rights. Over the last years, we have closed some stands after they were found violating rules."

Publishers at the fair are also obliged to grant discounts between 20 and 25 per cent on all books and there is price control during the 11-day exhibition. Violators will face penalties that may lead to the closure of offender's stand and also denial of participation in future editions.

Children's books

The Sharjah Book Fair will include events designated specifically for children despite the allocation of an annual book event for them, which is the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival.

"Children will remain at the centre of our interests, and SIBF takes keen interest in allocating special events for children to inculcate reading in their lives as a regular habit as per the directives of Dr Shaikh Sultan, who believes that children are the reliable source to depend on for a better future, and hence we should encourage them and lure them to read by providing them with high quality books in terms of good content," Al Ameri said.

He praised the efforts of Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group and her outstanding role in improving the quality of Arabic children's books by motivating publishers in the Arabic children's book industry to produce creative books through the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children's Literature she launched four years ago.

Al Ameri lauded the significant cooperation by various local and federal government bodies to facilitate the mission of the Sharjah Book Fair, as well as the harmony between various competent authorities, which collaborate to make the fair a success.

malzarooni@khaleejtimes.com

Mustafa Al Zarooni


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