Not only is gay sex banned in Dubai, but so are gay book characters. The city of riches, in its never-ending quest to be the world’s top everything city, plays host to the International Festival of Literature. And they were all excited about Geraldine Bedell’s book The Gulf Between Us, because it’s set in the Middle East. But then organizers found out about the gay sheikh character (complete with English boyfriend), freaked out, and disinvited Bedell.
It probably didn’t help that the entire plot was “set against the background of the Iraq War,” reports the London Times.
And now, not only has The Gulf Between Us been banned from the International Festival, but also from even being sold anywhere in the United Arab Emirates.
[Bedell says,] “It is incredibly affectionate towards the Gulf. I feel very warmly towards it, except when things like this happen. It calls into question the whole notion of whether the Emirates and other Gulf states really want to be part of the contemporary cultural world … You can’t ban books and expect your literary festival to be taken seriously.”
She said that the gay sheikh was a minor character.
Authors due to attend the festival, which begins on February 26, include Kate Adie, Jung Chang, Carol Ann Duffy, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Anthony Horowitz, Frank McCourt, Sir Mark Tully and Wilbur Smith.
One author contacted by The Times privately condemned the censorship: “One always hopes that these sorts of literary festivals open people’s minds to other people’s cultures, but this doesn’t seem to be the case here.”