Outside Canada, would-be censors attack and ban the works of Canadian authors. Here are two examples.
Author: Mariko Tamaki, Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Publication Type: Graphic Novel
First Published: 2014
About the Author and Her Book
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki are cousins who were raised in Calgary and currently live in Toronto, Canada. This One Summer is their second collaboration.
In 2014, This One Summer, became the first graphic novel to land on the shortlist for the Caldecott Medal. The Caldecott Medal is awarded to picture books for children published in the United States.
According to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, “The Caldecott Medal and Honor are given to illustrators whose work is suitable for children up to 14 years of age. An examination of past Caldecott winners and honorees reveals that most of the recipients created books for the younger end of the age range. In the last ten years alone, about 82% of Caldecott winners have been aimed at audiences age 8 and younger. As a result, many people have the expectation that Caldecott winners and honorees are meant for the youngest readers”.
In May 2016, a school library in Henning, Minnesota decided to remove This One Summer. The Superintendent of the school found the topics in the novel to be “inappropriate for inclusion in the library”. The graphic novel was also removed from library shelves at three different school libraries in Florida in February of 2016.
Author: Irshad Manji
Publication Type: Non-fiction book
First Published: 2011
About the Author and Her Book
Irshad Manji was born in Uganda but raised and educated in Canada. She now lives and works in New York City. Manji is also a reformist Muslim. She receives death threats from Muslims who despise her message and her lesbianism.
Allah, Liberty and Love critiques contemporary Islam and Muslims. It encourages people to find the courage to debate religious differences in peaceful, non-dogmatic ways. The book argues that multifaith societies can be free, tolerant and democratic.
In 2012, Manji toured Southeast Asia to promote her book. In Indonesia, she encountered threats of violence and actual violence. In Malaysia, a Muslim government banned Allah, Liberty and Love.
On May 4, Manji arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia. Police cut short her first appearance — at a cultural centre — when members of the Islamic Defenders Front massed outside the building and threatened violence. A few days later, security threats prompted Gadjah Mada University to cancel a scheduled event.
On May 9, while still in Indonesia, angry Muslims attacked a book chat with shouts of “Where is Manji?” Some people shielded Manji from the attackers, but a colleague — Emily Rees — was struck on the arm by a metal bar and rushed to hospital. Two other people suffered head injuries.
Later in May, Manji visited Malaysia to promote Allah, Liberty and Love. In Kuala Lumpur, government officials raided bookstores to confiscate copies of the book. Then, on May 24, after receiving a report from the Department of Islamic Development, Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs banned Manji’s books. The report declared that Manji’s ideas are contrary to Islamic teachings.
“The Malaysian government’s ban of Allah, Liberty and Love is not just a disappointment; it is an insult to a new generation of Malaysians,” said Manji in a statement. “Censorship treats citizens like children. Censorship denies human beings their free will to think for themselves.”
After Manji left Malaysia, a few Malaysians were arrested for selling or possessing copies of the book. Manji’s Malaysian publisher, ZI Publications, received permission from a court to appeal the ban.
Author: Rohinton Mistry
Publication Type: Novel
First Published: 1991
About the Author and His Book
Rohinton Mistry is an award-winning author of novels. He was born in Mumbai, India, but now lives in Ontario.
Such a Long Journey is set in Mumbai in 1971. The book tells the story of Gustad Noble, a man who struggles to keep his family out of poverty and trouble. In Canada, the book won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in 1991. It also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book in 1992.
In September 2010, Indian students demonstrated at the gates of the University of Mumbai. Most belonged to the youth wing of a political party called Shiv Sena. They burned copies of Such a Long Journey.
The students also pressed the university to stop teaching the book. Within 24 hours of receiving the demand, Vice-Chancellor Rajan Welukar dropped the novel from the syllabus. Welukar later said that he was following the instructions of the university’s board of studies.
Aditya Thackeray, the leader of the students, demanded the ban because he objected to the “obscene and vulgar language” in the novel. He also objected to a negative reference to his grandfather, who founded Shiv Sena.
The ban provoked a debate in India about censorship. Some politicians supported the ban, but writers, liberals and intellectuals condemned it. On October 19, 2010, Mistry himself criticized the censorship of his novel. His statement appeared in Indian newspapers such as The Hindu and on YouTube.
But the University of Mumbai’s ban on Such a Long Journey stayed in force.