Author Margaret Atwood Protests Dubai Book Fest After Gay Book Banned

atwood-margaret-2005-credit-jallenDubai has spent billions of dollars transforming its coasts into palm-tree shaped islands and building the world’s tallest skyscraper in a bid to lure in Western dollars, but for Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the state’s leaders, who decided to ban British authors Geraldine Bedell’s novel The Gulf Between Us, which features a gay Middle Eastern character, don’t have enough luxury condos in the world to lure her to the homophobic nation.

The AP writes that Atwood said:

“I was greatly looking forward to the Festival, and to the chance to meet readers there; but, as an International Vice President of PEN — an organization concerned with the censorship of writers — I cannot be part of the Festival this year.”…

Festival director Isobel Abulhoul described Atwood’s decision not to attend the Feb. 26 to March 1 festival as “regrettable.”

The festival has not given a specific reason for why it banned Bedell’s forthcoming book. But Abulhoul said decisions can be driven in many cases by “simple attendance imperatives.”

“I would hope that anyone informed and interested in the differing cultures around the world would both understand and respect the path we tread in setting up the first festival of this nature in the Middle East,” she said in a letter posted on the festival’s Web site late Wednesday.

Dubai has struggled over the past year to merge its glitzy international appeal with its conservative Muslim values. The UAE has also come under intense pressure this week after it barred an Israeli women’s tennis player from a lucrative Dubai tournament. On Thursday, it announced that an Israeli men’s doubles player would be allowed entry into the country to play in next week’s men’s tournament.”