Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Friday, September 01, 2006

Two jihad books banned in Australia

The July 2006 banning of two books in Australia is discussed by political science professor Norman Abjorensen in a paper issued this month by Democrat Audit of Australia of Australian National University. The two books banned -- Defence of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan -- are both by the late Sheik Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian- born Islamic radical who was assassinated in 1989. The two books, among eight submitted for review to Australia's Classification Review Board, are the first books to be banned in Australia for many years, and separates Australia -- which does not yet have a bill of rights -- from other western nations that have not yet banned such books. Abjorensen criticized this decision, noting:

"It is difficult to see just what such drastic measures as banning these books are aimed at achieving, apart from being seen to respond to a populist and intemperate clamour for action out of all proportion to the perceived threat."

The decision is being challenged in the Australian Federal Court by the NSW Council of Civil Liberties.

Update: These two books, along with a third with a similar Jihad theme, The Lofty Mountain, have been removed from the Melbourne University library. Mark Dunn of the Herald Sun reports: "An honours student requesting access to one of the books has already been refused permission to borrow or even view it." Dunn also quotes the university's deputy vice chancellor who says academic research will suffer as a result of this legislation: "It contravenes a fundamental principle of academic life that students and academics need to be able to access research materials."

4 Comments:

Blogger FreadomistaW said...

Who is this professor to pontificate that the threat to Australia is out of all proportion to the response? Does he forget the hundreds blown to bits in the Bali bombing?

I say we need to see more of what is actually IN these books before the rush to judgement. Even in the US there are laws about literature calling people to immediate violent action which would result in imminent danger to the populace. I am not sure they have been used for years, but they are on the books, unless I err.

It is a good debate to have. I hardly think, however, that Australia should be placed in the same category as other Asian nations, like China, Vietnam and Indonesia. There needs to be some sort of distinction between "total" freedom, total repression, and all the grey area in between.

4:17 AM  
Blogger Stephen Denney said...

It is not a matter of placing Australia in the same category as the other countries you mention. My purpose here is to document various forms of book banning and censorship around the world, and these take different forms. From what I read, banning the book will not stop people in Australia from reading it if they really want to, or at least large portions of it which are posted on internet. But it does set a bad precedent for a western style democracy.

11:20 AM  
Blogger FreadomistaW said...

My point is the opposite: the terrible precedent may be that Western democracies tolerate such literature to flow freely among a small percentage of the population that has indicated support for people dedicated to destroying the very same democracies.

Suicide is not healthy for nations,either.

As I said: let's find out what is actually IN the books that were banned. It may be entirely sane and proper to ban it.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Stephen Denney said...

My point is that banning books is a slippery slope, and once you get into the business of it you can never draw a clear line between which books should be banned and which should not. In this particular case, the banning would not stop people from reading the book, or at least the ideas promulgated in it, if they really wished to, it only helps publicize a book that would otherwise rest in its deserved obscurity.

Since you believe banning books is justifiable under certain circumstances, do you propose we should have a banned books commission in the United States as well?

12:45 PM  

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