Manama: Joumana Haddad, a Lebanese poet and journalist, has been banned from taking part in a cultural event in Bahrain next month.
Joumana was scheduled to present “a banquet of poetry and music” on April 6 as part of the Spring of Culture Festival organised annually by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca), headed by Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa.
However, the poet said that her “banquet” has been cancelled.
“The decision was taken on Friday,” Joumana said. “There is nothing I can do even though I really wanted to take part in the event dedicated to poetry,” she told Lebanese daily L’Orient Le Jour.
Shaikha Mai had called her to inform her about the cancellation, the poet added.
In Bahrain, no official statement has been released regarding the change in the programme.
Several people, mainly Islamists, led by Al Asalah, the expression of Salafism in Bahrain, had vehemently opposed the poetry recital by Joumana, accusing her of promoting atheism and of targeting Islamic values.
Joumana is the editor-in-chief of Jasad (Body) magazine, a Beirut-based quarterly Arabic publication that deals with issues of sexuality and art. The magazine does not shy away from printing nude photographs of a sexually suggestive nature. It has been criticised in the Arab world as being a “pornographic” magazine.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the disrespect by the Baca of the feelings of more than one billion Muslims and its challenge to the beliefs of the Bahraini people by inviting an atheist who advocates pornography and adultery to Bahrain to spread her sick mentality at an event of the Spring of Culture,” Al Asalah said in a statement.
“Joumana Haddad has been rejected by her own Lebanese people who forced her to close her promiscuous magazine that was promoting atheism and pornography,” the statement added referring to Jasad.
News of the event cancellation prompted joy and sorrow on social media.
Several bloggers said they were shocked by the decision and stressed that arts and personal views should never be mixed.
However, several other bloggers hailed the decision as the expected support of the religious beliefs, local morals and social values in Bahrain that could not accept someone with “shocking views” to take part in a cultural event.