In April 2008, freedom of speech and creativity in Egypt was hit in its core with the confiscation of Magdy El Shafee's adult graphic novel – Metro.
Culture and Politics in the Arab World reported the incident saying:
The policemen targeted the remaining stock of Metro, a book published a year ago. According to the Egyptian law, an honest citizen had complained against an outrageous publication (using dirty colloquial words says more or less the accusation).
Metro is not an ordinary book. It is the first “graphic novel” in Arabic. Magdy El Shafee spent five years working on that detective story whose main character, Shihab, is a young Egyptian IT engineer who decides to rob a bank. The money being hidden in the subway, the real problem is to find the way out… A question that many Egyptian ask themselves nowadays.
Mohamed El Sharkawy – the publisher – and Magdy El Shafee were subpoenaed to go to court on March 28 and the trial was postponed to April 4.
On his blog, El Sharkawy wrote:
The editors of Words without Borders urged the international community to Say No to Metro Confiscation and Trial:
Shortly after it was published Shafee’s novel was confiscated. He and his publisher are on trial for its distribution. According to the “The Daily News Egypt” “Shafee and El-Sharqawy [Shafee’s publisher] are being charged under article 178 of the Egyptian penal code which criminalizes the printing or distribution of publications which ‘infringe public decency’” which “‘forms part of a bundle of repressive laws that violate rights relating to freedom of expression.’”
They also quoted Madgy El Shafee's petition on Facebook:
Your NO for confiscation is YES for our freedom … is `YES for our solidarity … is NOOOOO for the government prelude of harder stringing of freedom of the art and word, in the press, the satellites, the internet and now the independent publishing houses. We invite you to say: NO for metro confiscation and trial, Support freedom of arts and expression. Metro is considered the first graphic novel in Egypt. written and illustrated by Magdy El Shafee who won the UNESCO gratitude for best African comics 2006 … Egyptian government officials said the book was “harmful to public manners” due to its alleged political and social commentary.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) – a pan-Arabic network that promotes freedom of speech has rejected “the confiscation of the novel and considers it a severe violation against the freedom of expression.
With the coming court session next saturday April 4th, HRinfo and 4 human rights organizations announced a new condemnation in March 30th entitled: [Egypt`s Farouk Hosny goes to UNESCO, and Magdy El Shafee goes to the court!! the Author of Egypt`s graphic novel “metro” threatened with 2 years jail sence.] ([in Arabic])
The Comics Reporter, Baroque in Hackney, The Middle East Times, Al Dostoor, Al Badeel, and Youm 7 showed their consolidation with the author and his publisher. The English Pen Worldwide Atlas stated that it is good news that Magdy El Shafee is receiving support from the global blogosphere
Bassem Sharaf wrote:
On March 25, Shaymaa El Gammal celebrated Magdy's Comic Experience in Goethe Institue saying:
Graphic Novel أخرى لاتسعت قاعدة هذا الفن أكثر وصار انتشاره أمراً مقبولاً.
On March 28, Shaymaa reported on the trial and commented:
Daniel named Metro a Damned Book:
Personally, I think that any book has the right to be published even if it was offensive to some people, any writer who has the creativity in him/her should be able to say whatever he/she feels like saying, and the debates between any two groups should take place in more neutral atmosphere than a court.
The freedom of speech in Egypt is not a political concept at all, it's a human right that should be giving to anyone who's asking for it, a right to talk about any subject that any Egyptian can talk about without the fear of being pushed to court, or damned by any group of people, or even the leaders of any religion.
The book might be right in some places and wrong in others, I didn't read it so I wouldn't know, but no person should be banned or attacked because of his/her thoughts or the way it was expressed, and any creative act just be treated gently and with care.
Fantasia's World blogged about Metro in the Dark Ages:
Freedom for Sharkawy .. Freedom for El Shafee!.
هو لسه فيه كده ف اى حتة فى الدنيا؟
الحرية لمجدى والشرقاوى
i say freedom to all the arts and if one wishes not view it or read it then they dont have to but then again i live in the usa and i believe there is a little bit of a difference with our laws vs egypt’s laws but keep up the fight and one day it’ll change for all. be free be proud & be brave . good luck to all