This special edition of Minbar Ibn Rushd is dedicated to prison literature, the subject of this year’s Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought (2015).
We begin with an essay by the late Egyptian author and literary critic Radwa Ashour on prison literature. In it she analyzes some works of former prisoners, who have suffered political custody in notorious prisons like al-Wahat, Tazmamart, al-Khayyam, and have written impressive works about their life and experience, these include authors like Ibrahim Toukan and Aisha Odeh from Palestine, Sonallah Ibrahim and Habashi from Egypt, Rachid Benaissa and Ahmed Marzouki from Morocco and Soha Bishara from Lebanon.
In her introduction to her autobiographical book “Dreams of Freedom” we learn about the problems and the inner struggle of a former political prisoner, Aisha Odeh, winner of the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2015. In “Experience with writing” she writes about her conflict and about the pain she has in the processing of their memory and in searching for a language suitable for expressingthrough which she could express her suffering.Finally after years of hesitation she finds: “I had the feeling I was penetrating a wall and finally found a language of my own.”
The second text we bring an excerpt of Ahmed al-Marzouki’s autobiography Tazmamart, cellule 10, for which he was awarded the second Ibn Rushd Prize 2015. Al-Marzouki was unintentionally involved in 1971’s Skhirat attempt at a coup d’état against King Hassan II. A military court sentenced him to 5 years in prison, which ended after 20 years, 18 of which he spent in the desert prison of Tazmamart, where many of his co-prisoners died due to the conditions of detention, cold, disease, malnutrition and absence of health care. It was only due to the unyielding pressure exerted by international human rights organizations that Marzouki was freed in 1991. In his autobiography “Tazmamart, cell No. 10” he gives a testimony to his time in prison which is moving both in its depth and detail. The excerpt “The slow death of Mohamed Lghalu” describes the horrifying fate of a fellow prisoner, who was ill during captivity.
Mustafa Khalifa draws a very different picture of his experience in Syrian jails: he was jailed twice already as an adolescent; the last time for fifteen years. In his novel “The Shell: Memoirs of a Hidden Observer” (al-Qawqa’a: yawmiyyat mutalassis) Khalifa makes the reader an eye-witness of violence and injustice in the prisons of Syria, especially Palmyra and Saidaniya). We link to an excerpt of the novel on the website “other stories” translated by Elisabeth Jaquette.
Next, Dr. Hassan Kamel Ibrahim analyzes the philosophy of nonviolent resistance of the American writer and politician Henry Thoreau, who lived in the nineteenth century. Henry was a lover of nature and a follower of an ideal transcendentalism from a mystical perspective, which also influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Its central idea was: “That government is best which governs least.” (Thoreau).
Prof. Dr. Kadhim Habib offers an additional analysis of the book Mohamed Mahmoud, “The prophethood of Mohamed: History and its invention: an access towards a critical reading” by Dr. Mohamed Mahmoud, after Hamid Fadlalla’s first discussion of the book in his review last issue of Minbar. According to the author Mohamed Mahmoud the main difficulties are the necessity to withdraw the Holiness of everything, if you intend to explore it to the bottom to be able to achieve scientifically solid facts instead of fixed ideas. The main conclusion Mohamed Mahmoud comes to is the assumption he postulates in the introduction to his book and which he argumentatively follows in the 13 chapters: “In this book I examine the prophethood of Muhammad and prophecy in general and begin with the theory that the prophecy is a purely human phenomenon, and that it is not God, of whom this prophecy is talking about, who had invented and created phrophethood, but prophethood, who has invented and created its God.”
We end Minbar with the review of a recently published book (2015) in Beck Verlag , which has equally received extensive attention from politicians and Islamic scholars: “Sowing the Wind. The Effect of Western Policy in the Middle East.” by the Middle East expert Michael Lüders. The book focuses on the failure of Western policy in the Middle East. Lüders analyzes the impact of Western policies and the causes of the unrest and wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and the rest of the Arab world and he criticized Israeli policy and its war in Gaza – commented Hamid Fadlalla.