Book ex­hi­bi­tion dom­i­nated by Ara­bic books

The Kurdish Globe - - LAST PAGE -

The 2013 Er­bil In­ter­na­tional Book fair­show­cased mil­lions of books in Er­bil. It was hosted by the Pub­lish­ing house Al-Mada and the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment. The event (un­like pre­vi­ous years) was quite strict with ex­trem­ist Is­lamic pub­lish­ing houses, and their books were limited. Brows­ing through the books, I was bit­terly dis­ap­pointed. There was an over­whelm­ing amount of re­li­gious books – vary­ing from old re­li­gious texts to con­tem­po­rary in­ter­pre­ta­tions avail­able. While I ad­mire re­li­gious texts for their thought-pro­vok­ing and sen­ti­men­tal value but I can’t help but feel dis­ap­pointed. I didn’t at­tend the Book fair to buy re­li­gious books, al­though I do like read­ing about re­li­gion.

There were thou­sands of re­li­gious books; most of them seemed ex­tremely sim­i­lar. When I at­tended the book ex­hi­bi­tion, I was pleased by the dec­o­ra­tion, us­age of space and how or­ga­nized it all seemed. It was much bet­ter than pre­vi­ous ex­hi­bi­tions, which I at­tended in 2011. De­spite this, I ex­pected in­ter­na­tional best­sellers.

The ma­jor pub­lish­ing houses from the West were not in­vited, or at least they did not at­tend. The Ara­bic in­flu­ence in the ex­hi­bi­tion was ap­par­ent, the Kur­dish in­flu­ence was not, and this was an­other dis­ap­point­ment for me. Some Arab writ­ers have ap­plauded this by say­ing this was an ‘achieve­ment’ be­cause both Arabs and Kurds in Iraq have felt the po­lit­i­cal ten­sions down to their very teeth for the past year.

I want my read­ers to think of the fol­low­ing ques­tion for this week, and I hope to re­ceive some replies by email! Why don’t we have best­sellers in Kur­dis­tan? If you think this is be­cause we don’t have a cul­ture of read­ing, my re­sponse would be, how can we create a cul­ture of read­ing when we don’t have the right books avail­able to them? I want our so­ci­ety to progress, for books to be­come an im­por­tant part of our lives. I want to see young men and women read­ing lit­er­a­ture at cof­fee and teashops through­out Kur­dis­tan. We re­ally need to push out the ma­te­ri­al­is­tic cul­ture that is be­ing shoved down our throat and pro­mote mean­ing­ful ways of progress.

So­ci­eties progress when young thinkers are born, and through read­ing we can make this a pos­si­bil­ity but this is not pos­si­ble when re­li­gious books dom­i­nate book ex­hi­bi­tions. Most of us ad­mire and re­spect re­li­gion, but that doesn’t mean re­li­gious text should dom­i­nate our think­ing. In fact, re­li­gion pro­motes learn­ing and ac­quir­ing knowl­edge, and this should be re­flected in book ex­hi­bi­tions.

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