This September 29 through October 6 is “Banned Books Week”.  The American Library Association’s website tells us, “First observed in 1982, Banned Books Week reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. The event is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of College Stores.   It is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.”
Most books aren’t actually banned as much as they are challenged.  When a book is challenged it is brought up for discussion within a school or library as to whether the book in question should remain on their shelves.  Many different books are banned, or challenged, for a variety of issues.  The most challenged book of 2006, according to the ALA’s website, was “’And Tango Makes Three’ by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group.”  This children’s book is based on the true story of two male penguins at New York Central Park Zoo that built a nest together and with the help of a zookeeper hatched and raised a baby penguin.
To celebrate this very important week, I’m going to list off several books that have been banned or challenged on religious grounds.  I’ve gotten these titles from the wonderfully interesting book, “120 Banned Books” by Nicholas J. Karolides, Margaret Bald, and Dawn B. Sova.  This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it.
Now, some titles that have been suppressed on religious grounds.
“The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine, this is an uncompromising attack on Christianity based on the principles of rationalism.  Um, yeah, Christians disliked this one.
“The Analects” by Confucius, this is a collection of sayings and short dialogues attributed to Confucius.  It’s a guide to ethics and morality in personal and political life.  Although Confucius himself was agnostic, a religion developed around his teachings.  Throughout China’s history “The Analects” have been banned in an effort to help Chinese citizens move toward the future.
“The Bible”  Don’t even get me started.  But yes, in oh so many places and for oh so many reasons, “The Bible” has been banned or challenged.
“Children of the Alley” (sometimes found as “Children of Gebelaawi”) by Naguib Mahfouz, is a history of an imaginary Cairo alley and an allegorical account of the lives of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.  It offers a critique of religious intolerance and political and economic repression.  To sum up, Fundamentalists, particularly of an Islamic leaning, hate this book.
“The Koran”, see “The Bible”.
“Church: Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church” by Leonardo Boff, is a collection of essays that argues from his experience with the poor in Brazil that the Catholic Church should transform into a “liberation Church” not simply for the poor but of the poor.  Here’s a fun fact kids, the Roman Catholic Church does not respond to criticism well.  Boff, who was a Friar, was ordered to observe an “obedient silence” for an unspecified period of time.  No writing, teaching, or lecturing.  This lasted for 10 months.
“Lajja (Shame)” by Taslima Nasrin, is a documentary novel about the plight of a Hindu family in Bangladesh persecuted by Muslim fundamentalists during an outbreak of anti-Hindu violence in 1992.  Nasrin is an uncompromising critic of patriarchal religious traditions that she views as oppressive to women.  Nasrin, because of her “blasphemy and conspiracy against Islam”, has a fatwa.  That’s the death decree issued by the Council of Soldiers of Islam.
These are merely a drop in the bucket.  Who can forget the hooplah over “The Last Temptation of Christ” by Nikos Kazantzakis or “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie?  By the way, I saw Rushdie on “The Colbert Report” recently, Rushdie is funny, who knew?
Remember, as the American Library Association says, “Free People Read Freely.”  Now get out there and read a banned book!

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