Last night, I attended another one of the cultural activities accompanying the Riyadh International Book Fair. It was a panel on the censorship on media, and the speakers included Dr. Mohammed Abduh Yamani, the former minister of information and one of the country’s prominent intellectuals, Dr. Mohammed Al-Romaihi, the general secretary of the Higher Council of Culture in Kuwait, and one of my favorite writers, and Nahed Ba-Shatah, a columnist that I linked to her writings on several occasions. The announced program also included Abdul-Rahman Al-Rashed, manager of Al-Arabiya channel but he was not there for unexplained reasons. The panel was moderated by Turki Al-Sudairi, the editor-in-chief of Al-Riyadh newspaper. Like the two activities I attended before, the forces of darkness were present in the hall, and again, they ruined the whole thing.
First, Dr. Yamani talked about his experience with censorship as a minister, and then it was Dr. Al-Romaihi’s turn to talk. He made some really interesting points, but what I liked the most was his last remark. He said, “the more our education system fails to achieve its goals, the more we need censorship,” and I think it is very clear that education in our region is a major failure. Few minutes before Dr. Al-Romaihi finished his remarks, one of the sheikhs from the first row interrupted, telling him that time was up. Dr. Al-Romaihi did not take it very well, and asked the sheikh: “Are you the moderator of this panel or what?” It was really embarrassing. When these rude lunatics are going to learn how to be polite?
Next, Al-Sudairi said that due to the limited time available, they won’t be able to take all the questions by the audience. Here, the same shiekh started shouting at him, saying that he is acting some kind of censorship, and that he should not be on the podium. Al-Sudairi promised the angry sheikh that he will be given enough time to speak his mind, and that’s what actually happened after Ba-Shatah finished her presentation.
From this point, and except for two comments from the female participants, logic was totally lost from the hall. A sheikh named Ahmed Al-Farraj said they should have had a religious scholar on the podium, because censorship is a part of “the prevention of vice,” and that this era of media revolution and openness requires even more censorship. Another sheikh sitting next to him said that the moderator of the panel should be censored. “All programs in the media, and the people behind them, and the minister of information should be presented to a Sharia court,” he added, because he thinks that they have violated Islamic laws.
Nuha Al-Nasser said the answer is in dialogue and not censorship, while Laila Al-Uhaideb asked if we can depend on heads of newspapers to raise society’s awareness on censorship. Right after Al-Uhaideb finished her short comment, another sheikh asked to speak, and attacked her, accusing her of calling for sex education in her writings. He also attacked other female writers such as Maha Al-Hejailan and Samar Al-Megrin. At the end of his speech, he asked the government to increase censorship on media, and to sack Iyad Madani, the current minister of information, “because he is not capable for such position.”
It was clear that the panel was going in the wrong direction, and it would only get worse if the moderator gave another chance to the extremists and their propaganda, so he announced the end of the panel, even though they had more than 30 minutes left. However, that was not the end for the forces of dark, who continued their demagogic behavior. They went to the podium, surrounded Dr. Yamani, and started talking loudly with him. Dr. Yamani looked very angry when he left. The idiots! The man is old enough to be a father of all these stupid sheikhs, yet they showed not respect to him.
After leaving Dr. Yamani, they headed to Al-Sudairi and Dr. Al-Romaihi, but I could not see what was going on between them. Few seconds later, I heard them roaring: Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, which was really scary because I was afraid that one of them might just blow himself up and kill us all, but thank God that did not happen.
This sucks! Those lunatics are just ruining it for everybody. They come to every panel and lecture, do their ugly thing, and then leave happily as if they were making a victory of some sort. They are so rude and impolite, and they don’t even know how to listen. I was planning to attend more panels and lectures, but if these creatures are going to come and make their crappy show every time, then maybe I’ll just stay home and read a good book instead.