List of Banned Books and Audiovisuals in Kuwait

Posted by Mark

Late last month I posted about how some schools are banning the book Harry Potter. Well I now have the full list of books banned which I’ve shared below. This list was created by the Ministry and the Foreign Schools Committee. The list below is for 2014-2015, if there are any spelling mistakes I’m sorry but I had to type the list below manually since I only received a print version not a digital one. In brackets I’ve also mentioned who was behind the ban and you’ll notice the schools have banned more books than the Ministry but that could be because they’re following the Ministry’s guidelines. One thing to note is that schools are recommended to follow this list and not obliged to follow it except for the books banned by the Ministry. Check out the full list below:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Ministry of Private Education Guidelines

Posted by Mark

Yesterday I posted about how Harry Pottery is now banned in Kuwait and awhile ago a reader emailed me the Ministry of Education’s guidelines for books to be excluded from schools. Check out the list below:


Ministry of Private Education Guidelines

In accordance with the Ministry of Education’s guidelines, please find below a detailed list of the types of books and/or materials to be excluded from the School’s teaching materials and subjects.

This includes but is not limited to classroom libraries, Library collection, textbooks & Scholastic orders.

I. Books with a Religious Domain that:
1. Personify God, messengers, prophets, angles and companions of the messengers
2. Distort the messengers, their families, disciples, and traditions
3. Allege religious mistreatment between Jews, Muslims and Christians
4. Assert religion as an instigator of aggression, terrorism, activism or invasion
5. Show places of worship in an inappropriate way
6. Claim Mohammed as the “founder” of Islam
7. Describe the immigration to Mecca as, “flight” or “escape”
8. Claim Mohammed was the author of the Quran, or calling the Quran the “teachings of Mohammed”
9. Claim that Islam and other religions were spread by force
10. Offend Islamic and other religions’ traditions, the companions, scholars, and laws and legislators
11. Adopt missionary connotations when talking about religions
12. Teach Darwin’s theory of evolution or the “Origins of Species”
13. Exaggerate the differences between religious sects in Islam and other religions
14. Spread information about witchcraft, reincarnation and the transmigration of souls
15. Rephrase the Quran or other religious books by adding verses and/or chapters to it

II. Books with a Political Domain:
1. View the Arab Israeli conflict with bias and/or sympathy towards Israel
2. Focus on Jewish persecution, during the holocaust, excluding the oppression of other races’ by Hitler
3. Falsify and misinterpret the history of Arab countries
4. Denounce the policy of the State of Kuwait and its sovereignty and attack the GCC and Arab states
5. Rename the Arabian Gulf, the Persian Gulf
6. Claim the islands in the Arabian Gulf as Iranian territory
7. Claim Iran has sovereignty over the Kingdom of Bahrain
8. Distort Arab and Muslim history
9. Claim that the Crusades were caused by religious persecution of Muslims and/or Christians
10. Misinterpret Kuwait’s relation with Arab and other countries

III. Books with a Cultural Domain:
1. Show naked or immoral pictures or photos
2. Contradict Islamic law
3. View marriage as solely a sexual relationship instead of a holy union
4. Condone the eating of pigs
5. Condone the consumption of liquor, alcohol, and drugs
6. Divide or split the social unity of society

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Harry Potter Now Banned in Kuwait

Posted by Mark


According to a contact of mine at one of the top English schools, their librarian last week received an official letter from the Ministry stating that Harry Potter books are now banned in Kuwait and all copies should be removed from the library. Whats interesting is that previously Harry Potter books were the only magic books that were actually allowed but it looks like that’s no longer the case.

Update: According to a friend who works at the library of a different English school, they weren’t requested to remove Harry Potter from their shelves.

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All Gone Arabia

Posted by Mark


A few weeks back I briefly mentioned that I was launching a business soon. Well the business is called supersoulxxx and although I won’t go into details on it in this post, I did want to mention an event we’re hosting in Dubai in a few days.


We’re bringing the creator of the All Gone book to the Middle East for the first time along with limited quantities of his book. All Gone is created and published by Michael Dupouy and is a collection of the finest in street culture ranging from sneakers and apparel to skateboard decks, toys and so on. The book in itself is very limited in number, just like the featured items hence the title ‘All Gone’.

So if you are in Dubai on the 11th of March come by pick up a copy and get it signed by Michael Dupouy.

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The National Library Bookshop

Posted by Mark


I hadn’t heard of this bookshop until my friend took me to it recently. It’s supposedly one of the oldest bookshops in Kuwait and it’s called “المكتبة الوطنية” which translates to The National Library. They sell Arabic books and comics, mostly new but they also have a bunch of really old stuff.


While flipping through one of the old comics I found the Hardees advert above. My very first memory of Hardees is that kids meal box, I think I was around 6 years old and I remember getting it from the now demolished Hardees near my house in Salem Mubarek Street.

If you’re interested in checking out this old bookshop it’s located in Souk Mubarkia, here is the location on [Google Maps]

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The story behind Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

Posted by Mark


Back in October I wrote about Keith Wells, a British journalist who was living in Kuwait back in the 70s. Keith used to work for Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books which I’m lucky enough to own all three. A few days ago Keith got in touch with me and I asked him if he could tell me how it all started. This is what he shared with me:

I originally wrote the stories for the Arab Times which became very popular. Then I met Peter McMahon at a party, and he hadn’t read any of the stories and asked, “Who is this Wizr character?” “I said, he’s the young, trendy Kuwaiti guy with the scarlet Transam with the eagle decal on the bonnet.’ So Peter picked up a sheet of paper,scribbled away for a minute or two, then held it out and asked “Him?” It was perfect. Thereafter we became close friends. I’d write a story, take it to his flat every Friday, and he’d give me the cartoon from the week before’s story. He somehow drew exactly what I’d imagined. The combination became very popular indeed and after a month or two we were approached by Tony Jashanmal, who owned a department store on Fahed Salem St, and Bashir Khatib, who owned the Kuwait Bookshop to publish a book full of the stories. We had a 3 way partnership to print the book at The Arab Times and Launched it at the British Embassy Garden Fete in November 1979, a week or so before I married Suzi. We sold 428 copies in about two hours… amazing.

We carried on for just over a year, then Peter was murdered by Saddam Hussein’s goons, long sad, sad story… but the upshot was that I sort of lost the fun, we put out the second Wizr book with cartoons we hadn’t used in the first one. And the third book with odd scraps and recycled pics. By then it was getting a bit heavy with the Iran Iraq War getting very dangerous and I left the Arab Times and took a very low profile job teaching at the university of Kuwait. After 4 years there I went back to the paper and wrote more stories with an Indian cartoonist called Edgar, but they were never collected in book form. I left Kuwait in June ’87. We emigrated to Oz in Oct 1989, and the following March I had a massive heart attack in a small town in southern Queensland. After recovering, we spent the rest of our working lives doing PhDs in Communication Studies, and setting up Comm Depts in various universities and colleges in Macau, Singapore, Morocco, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico.

I’ve been a bit of a hermit since retiring in ’07, but am beginning to re-emerge and was very surprised and grateful for the interest in Wizr and Dozi and his pals. Someone told me a few years ago that the fabulous cartoon of Dozi with the two rubber stamps “PERHAPS” and “PERHAPS NOT” is to be found in many offices to this day. Peter would have loved that.

– Keith Wells

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Comedy in Kuwait back in the 50s

Posted by Mark


The lovers of humor and comic stuff had the chance in Kuwait back in the fifties to enjoy it through the comic magazine “Al-Fukaha” which means humor in English.

“Al-Fukaha” magazine was released in October 1950, the chief editor was Farhan Rashed Alfarhan and the owner was Abdullah Al-Khaled Al-Hatem.

At first, it was printed in Kuwait. Then, they started printing it in the Syrian capital Damascus and the distribution of this comic magazine was in Kuwait.

“Al-Fukaha” that was released in 1950 continued until 7th February 1951 and then stopped. It was released again on July 20th 1954 but stopped one more time on 24th November 1958.

First time I’m hearing of this. [Link]

Thanks Farran

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Censorship of books in Kuwait

Posted by Fajer Ahmed


One of my favorite things to do while growing up in Kuwait was going to the Kuwait International Book Fair. I loved walking through the aisles and aisles of mostly Arabic and some English books while having ice-cream. Since this year’s book fair is opening its doors today (Wednesday the 19th), I thought it would be fit to write about books in Kuwait.

Kuwait was the first Gulf country to hold a book fair with the first being held back in 1975. It was a platform for readers, writers, bookstore owners and publishers to connect with each other directly. Whats sad is that although other Gulf countries only recently started holding book fairs, they have already surpassed Kuwait’s book fairs with their activities and list of international writers and affiliates.

Yes people do read here even though the attention span of an average human being is probably 3 minutes thanks to social media but I am still a strong believer that anyone can get into a book if they chose a book based on their interest. With all of that said, censorship is an issue, its my issue, its your issue, its our issue! Working at q8bookstore with publishers, schools and writers has brought up the subject quite a bit, and although there may be some grounds on why censoring certain books is necessary when it comes to children, the books censored in Kuwait have often if not always not made sense in my humble opinion (I am trying to be diplomatic). Historical atlases of Kuwait and books with hocus pocus and three little pigs for example make it to the list of banned books in schools! Some of Orhan Pamuk, Haruki Murakami and motion picture books (which btw get played in the theaters) also are examples that make it to the list of banned books in bookstores!

Don’t we as citizens have freedom of speech? Shouldn’t we be able read and write what we want? The Kuwaiti constitution mentions in article 36 and 37 the freedom of research, right to publish, conduct research and so on (wont bore you here with tough legal words, that lawyers invented). But seriously who decides whats to be censored and how is it done legally? Well a lot of the information is not available to the general public but with dedicated work, Sout Al Kuwait; a non-profit organization that aims to protect personal freedoms and other constitutional rights have published a booklet on censorship in Kuwait. Here are some interesting points:

– For a local book to be sold in Kuwait it has to go through the Ministry of Information, if there is some doubt on the content of the book, it is transferred to a committee. The committee is supposed to meet once a week but according to Sout Alkuwait when they visited them in April of 2010, they had not met for 3 months and had 120 books pending (surprise, surprise)

– In the 2009 International Book Fair, 25% of the banned books were fiction (get ready for the sad part), 11% poetry and 10% scientific journals

– 24 social organization have signed a petition to review censorship in Kuwait, hopefully this time with avail

Although Mark and I will give you the freedom of speech to post as you wish under here (maybe we can have a religious debate, or lets talk about how mark isn’t Kuwaiti?), either way, I would love to hear about your thoughts and stories on censorship in Kuwait.

Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.

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Wizr, Kuwait’s Greatest Driver

Posted by Mark


Back in the 70s there was a British journalist living in Kuwait by the name of Keith Wells. He used to work for the Arab Times and in his spare time he also used to write books about Kuwait, including a witty series on a character named Wizr who was Kuwait’s greatest driver. Between 1979 and 1984, Keith released three Wizr books but sadly there really isn’t a lot of information on them nor Keith online. In fact, there is a blog dedicated to keeping Keith and his Wizr series alive but even the blog doesn’t have much info nor content. The books document life in Kuwait during that period with humor and nicely drawn illustrations.


Since The Kuwait Bookshops is closing this might be your only chance to own one of his Wizr books. In 1984 he released “The Last Wizr Book” and The Kuwait Bookshops in Muthana still has copies of it remaining and they’re selling them cheap for KD1.5 (the bookshop is selling everything for 50% off). The book was his last one on the Wizr since the illustrator he had teamed up with for the previous two books had passed away. I tried to find the other two books online and I managed to snag his second book (pictured above) on eBay for KD7.5 and his first book on the series (pictured below) for KD16. It was more than what I wanted to pay, but I somehow felt compelled to save this part of Kuwait’s history. So try to grab his last book from Muthana if you can.


If anyone has any interesting information related to Keith or his books let me know.

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Save The Kuwait Bookshops

Posted by Mark


As a kid growing up in Kuwait in the 80s I used to pass by Muthana Complex in Kuwait City all the time with my family. Back then Muthana Complex was what Avenues is to Kuwait today, it was a beautiful mall and it used to get pretty packed on weekends. We had friends who lived in the apartments in Muthana so we were there pretty often, probably once a week. Whenever we used to be done visiting our friends we would head into the mall and the first shop we would see was The Kuwait Bookshops. We’d always walk in and either me or my sister would always end up leaving with a book or a magazine. But the Kuwait Bookshops was around way before the 80s and way before I was born. Last night I sat down with the owner of the bookshop Bashir Alkhatib and this is the story of The Kuwait Bookshops.


The History

Bashir moved to Kuwait in 1959 after studying in the US. He started working at the Ministry of Information and grew frustrated really quickly that he couldn’t buy any books in Kuwait. He used to love to read and there wasn’t any place that sold books so he thought to himself, this town needs a bookshop. In 1961 he opened The Kuwait Bookshops in the Thunayan AlGhanim building on Soor Street. It was one of the most advanced buildings in Kuwait at the time and one of the first to have an elevator. According to Bashir, the bedouins used to come in from the desert and stand in line to watch “the horse” that can go up and down. Back then the Thunayan AlGhanim building also housed the KOC offices as well as the British Consulate and they were his best customers. Bashir continued to work at the Ministry while also running the bookshop, he actually had to work at the Ministry overtime so he could afford to pay the expenses of the bookshop.


One of the bookshops customers was a British guy who used to come in regularly to pick up the English paper The Times. One day he came in to pick up the paper but he couldn’t find any so he asked Bashir, why don’t you have The Times? Bashir replied telling him he hadn’t paid the bill so they stopped sending his bookshop the papers. He asked him how come you didn’t pay the bill? Bashir told him that he didn’t have the money so he couldn’t. Turns out the customer was a manager at Gulf Bank and told him to pass by him at the bank. So Bashir went to Gulf Bank and sat with the manager who asked him, whats your dream? Bashir told him his dream was to have a bookshop similar to the ones in England and the US. After around an hour of chatting the manager told him he would give him an overdraft of KD10,000 guaranteed by the manger himself. Bashir took the money and got on the plane and headed to London where he met with various publishers. He managed to strike deals on credit where he would be able to buy books and newspapers and pay them back 90 days later which helped him a lot financially. The Kuwait Bookshops became one of the first to import books and newspapers to the Gulf.

In 1964 he opened his second location in Ahmadi due to popular request since his KOC customers kept asking for a location closer to them. Bashir used to originally get his magazines and papers from England but there was a distribution company that used to get magazines and newspapers from the US so in 1970 he decided to purchase that distribution company. Due to the amount of books, magazines and newspapers they were getting they had to get a warehouse to store all the items since there wasn’t enough space in the Soor and Ahmadi locations to display everything. Then in the mid 80s Muthana Complex started being built down the street from their Soor location so he purchased a shop there. In 1986 Muthana opened and The Kuwait Bookshops was one of the first shops to open there.


In 1990 the invasion happened and the shop got ransacked by the Iraqi soldiers. After the invasion Bashir went to his publishers one by one and asked them how much he had owed them but the publishers all told him that any debt he owed before the invasion would be wiped clean and they would start fresh from again. In 1992 The Kuwait Bookshops reopened and it’s been there ever since.


The Present

Due to irreconcilable differences between the partners, The Kuwait Bookshops is currently at risk of getting liquidating. The only way to save the bookshop is to buy out the other partner. If by December 5th the bookshop isn’t saved, then the bookstore along with it’s history will vanish. It’s depressing because The bookshop is a part of Kuwait’s heritage and once it’s gone its gone. There is currently a hashtag being used #savekuwaitbookshops on Instagram and Twitter so if you do pass by the store please hashtag your photos. Maybe with enough awareness someone will come in and help save the shop. If anyone by any chance is interested in possibly buying out the other partner, please [Email Me]

Note: First photo on top taken by Fabio Sabatini. Second photo taken by Nadia Nader.

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