Muscat: The Saudi embassy in Oman has said that there is no ban on any Omani book at the Riyadh International Book Fair.
The publisher of a book authored by the Omani Grand Mufti had recently made statements alleging that the work had been rejected by the organisers of the literary event, causing controversy in the country.
In a statement, the Saudi embassy said that the fair is one of the largest exhibitions in the Arab world, and not responding to a “particular request” to vet a list of books does not amount to disapproval of it.
With limited space, said the embassy, it is “natural” for the fair organising committee not to accept all the participation requests. There have been lots of applications for participation but due to space constraints priority has been given to the major publishing houses. “Visiting the book fair will be an enthralling experience for book connoisseurs,” the embassy said, according to local news site Al Balad News. “Major publishing houses from all over the world are vying to participate in it.”
The statement came after Mohammad Bin Sulaiman Al Rashidi, a publisher and owner of the Muscat Library, said that the organisers of the exhibition had banned the book Al Estibdad (Tyranny: Its manifestations and Its Confrontation) by Grand Mufti of the Sultanate, Shaikh Ahmad Al Khalili.
The mufti belongs to the Ibadhi Islamic school of thought that is unique to Oman and often rejected by Saudi clerics who follow the Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam.
Al Rashidi said that he had received a request from the management of the Riyadh fair and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture of Oman to specify the list of books that would be showcased at the exhibition.
He said that his library wanted to participate with 76 titles in Riyadh Book Fair but so far he has only forwarded 60 titles to the management of the book fair.
Al Rashidi pointed out that he had participated in the Riyadh book fair on three previous occasions.
Yousuf Al Balushi, the director general of the organisations and cultural relations of the Oman ministry of culture and heritage, said that Muscat Library’s participation was dropped for not meeting the requirements of the book fair. The publisher was allowed to participate with only 40 new titles to which he did not agree, arguing for all his requested titles to be accepted.
The Riyadh International Book Fair, which opens on Tuesday, will continue until March 14.
Oman recently angered Saudis after its public rejection of the Saudi-spearheaded plan to turn the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which both countries are members, into a confederation called the Gulf Union. The rejection of the union by Omani foreign minister Yousuf Al Alawi caused a social media firestorm, with Omanis facing a barrage of criticism from Saudis and other Gulf nationals.