Isobel Abulhoul, director of the new Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL), recently informed British novelist Geraldine Bedell that she could not be a part of the event because one of the characters in her forthcoming novel is gay, the Telegraph in London reported. Bedell, whose novel The Gulf Between Us will be published by Penguin UK in April, was under consideration for the four-day schedule of events, which features many international authors, including Margaret Atwood, Julia Glass, and Frank McCourt, and is set to begin in Dubai next Thursday. But when copies of her book, which features a homosexual character named Sheikh Rashid, and, according to Abulhoul, "talks about Islam and queries what is said," were sent to festival organizers, the author was informed that she could not participate and the book was banned from sale in the United Arab Emirates.
"I do not want our festival remembered for the launch of a controversial book," the festival director wrote in a letter to Bedell's publisher. "If we launched the book and a journalist happened to read it, then you could imagine the political fallout that would follow."
The EAIFL, the first event of its kind in the Middle East, was established last year "to highlight the significance of reading and literature in the [United Arab Emirates], where interest in the arts is growing rapidly, and will join together people of all nationalities to celebrate literature in all its forms."
"You can't ban books and expect your literary festival to be taken seriously," Bedell told the Telegraph.