August 13, 2008

More Muslim Censorship? Maybe Not

Yesterday, in a press release, Dr. Max Malik accused the Muslim Writers Awards of censoring his novel by not providing it to the judges, despite it being one of five shortlisted books.

“I’m angry at the treatment I’ve received,” stated Dr. Malik “because my creative effort is being treated as if it’s somehow unclean and unworthy. Clearly, the Muslim Writers Awards has decided that the novel is so unpalatable for them that it needs to be buried.”

Dr. Malik's unpublished book, The Butterfly Hunter, reportedly contains rape, pedophilia and a cell of suicide bombers. He discovered that the judges hadn't seen it after asking them for feedback.

The awards coordinators agree that the novel was shortlisted and that the judges didn't see it. However:

Irfan Akram said that he had personally tried to introduce Malik to publishers and agents on the basis that he felt his writing showed promise. "We are unequivocally, absolutely, not interested in restricting creative talent," added Akram. "The only thing I will say is that putting someone in front of television cameras and putting them in a magazine would not be the right way to censor them."

Awards project director Imran Akram said that Malik's submission was "certainly one of the best" received in 2008, and was shortlisted for the novel award along with four other unpublished novelists. But he admitted that Malik's work was not submitted to judges as it should have been, and said that the situation was currently being investigated: "The responsibility for ensuring work was submitted to judges was delegated to several individuals within the organisation. We are still in the process of investigating the matter, and will be responding to Dr Malik's concerns once we have ascertained why his novel was not forwarded to the panel of judges." A spokesperson for Malik said he had not as yet submitted his work to any publishers.

So we still don't know. It could have been one individual who didn't like the book keeping it from being seen. Or they may find a stack of books in a box under someone's untidy desk. We'll see.


Betül said...

the man says: "it (the book) needs to be buried"

I wish he was referring to his brain.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Well, if you're talking about the book, misery and betrayal are pretty much stock in trade for award-winning literary works. In my more cynical moments, I'm tempted to think you can't win an award without them. Nothing new there.

On the other hand, if you're talking about him issuing the press release instead of talking to the contest organizers, yeah, it'll get him some publicity, but it isn't the sort of behavior to make a publisher sit up and say, "I think I want to work with him." He probably burned a bunch of bridges with this.

Betül said...

Actually, my "he" was referring the award committee. To-be-buried-books is a sensitive issue for me. In the 60s, Turkey went on coup and military literally buried all the "left-minded" books. My parents still talk about how they had to hide some of their books or burn in the backyard before someone sees them. Painful. I should have written that more precisely though, sorry for the confusion.

On the other hand, if the writer issued the press release before talking to contest organizers for publicity, I do not find any problem there. I think this is an issue that attention has to be drawn on. Maybe he will find a publisher closer to his mind now.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Ah, I understand better now. Even the idea of living through that makes my skin crawl.

I still want to see the results of the investigation before trying to lay any blame, though. This is a small awards organization, sponsored by the city of Birmingham. There are so many little things that could have gone wrong that wouldn't require any malice. But if it does turn out that someone censored the book, you will hear me screaming about it.

Betül said...

You influenced me for my most recent post :)