Raid Qusti, Arab News
Published — Monday 9 October 2006
Last Update 9 October 2006 3:00 am
RIYADH, 9 October 2006 — A lawsuit filed against Rajaa Al-Sanea, the Saudi author of Banat Al-Riyadh (The Girls of Riyadh), was dropped by the Court of Grievances here yesterday.
Two Saudi citizens had filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Information for giving the author permission to distribute the novel which was first published last September by Saqi Books in Lebanon. They asked the court to punish Rajaa for tarnishing the image of the Saudi girls. The novel deals with the lives of four young Saudi girls who must live according to the traditions of Saudi society.
Rajaa, 24, a graduate of King Saud University in Riyadh, is currently in the United States working on an MS in dentistry.
The Court of Grievances rejected the lawsuit based on directives issued by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Muharram 6. The directives specify that
• All cases that concern the public should be submitted for study to the Commission for Investigation and Public Prosecution.
• If the court believes that a case does not deserve to have a lawsuit filed against it, a copy of the complaint is kept for the records and the person who filed it is informed.
• If the court believes that the case deserves to be looked into and is a subject for a lawsuit, the person filing the complaint must provide the necessary documents to prove the accusations.
Arab News has learned that the lawyer of the two Saudis intends to appeal yesterday’s decision. The legal adviser for the Ministry of Information, Mubarak Al-Dosari, requested the Court of Grievances not to accept the lawsuit because it was baseless.
The two Saudis had asked the court to withdraw the ministry’s permission that allowed the author to distribute her book in the Kingdom through various bookstores. They also requested that all airports and seaports in the Kingdom ban the book’s entry from abroad. They further said that the author be punished according to the laws of the land. In addition, they alleged that the Ministry of Information violated the laws of publication and distribution in Saudi Arabia by allowing the book to be sold at the International Book Exhibition held in Riyadh several months ago.
According to the lawsuit, the book is “an outrage to the norms of Saudi society. It encourages vice and also portrays the Kingdom’s female community as women who do not cover their faces and who appear publicly in an immodest way.”
Abdul Rahman Al-Qahtani, the lawyer for the two Saudis, said the book generalized the lives of Saudi women. He also alleged that the author had misinterpreted verses from the Holy Qur’an in the book.
“The permission given by the Ministry of Information did not take this violation of the Shariah into consideration,” the lawyer said. “This is a clear violation of the publication laws of the Kingdom which state that books should ‘promote the beliefs of our religion and its teachings and good deeds in addition to promoting anything that spreads culture and knowledge.’”