A Book Fair Dragged into Sectarianism

A Book Fair Dragged into Sectarianism

Karachi:Fissures along sectarian lines have deepened so much in Karachi that even an innocuous event such as a book fair cannot escape courting controversy.

On Friday, activists of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) filed a complaint with the police against a book stall at the ongoing 9th Karachi International Book Fair. The reason: “Displaying ‘controversial’ books.”

The book fair at the Expo Centre opened on Thursday and will end today (Sunday). The ASWJ members apparently bought some books from a stall set up by the Iranian consulate and went to the Aziz Bhatti police station. They asked the police to remove the literature from the stall as it hurt the sentiments of a certain sect.

“We chose to remain peaceful because the event was for families and women and children were also present there,” said Umar Mauwia, the ASWJ spokesperson, talking to The News. “The books hurt the [religious] feelings of the Sunnis, therefore, we took the legal course and went to the police with a complaint.”

The police did confirm that stall numbers 45 and 46 in Expo Centre’s Hall 2 had been closed down by the organisers after the objection. “Once we received the complaint, we went to the book fair to investigate,” said Aziz Bhatti SHO Ghulam Hussain Pirzada.

“The ASWJ brought samples of the books to our police station and requested us to act,” he said.

“We went to the organisers and asked them to remove the books from display as they may spark violence. But they chose to close down the stall.”

The event organisers were not available for comment.

An Iranian consulate representative denied, however, any such books were present at the stall.

“We closed down the stall to avert violence but we shall issue a formal statement to clarify the confusion,” he said.

“We categorically reject the reports about the presence of sectarian books at the stall at Expo Centre. Iran has always raised its voice for the unity of Muslims. Allegations by outfits, which are themselves involved in fuelling sectarian strife, can never be the standard of reality,” read a statement issued by the Iranian Consulate General’s press section.

Running in its 9th consecutive year, the Karachi International Book Fair is organised by the top publishers in the country. The five-day event attracts thousands of people from all walks of life and is a treasure trove for book lovers.The News