Riyadh: Dozens of Saudi extremists
descended on the Riyadh International Book Fair denouncing the
sale of books "contrary to Islam," witnesses said.
Turki al-Shalil, a spokesman for the powerful Saudi
religious police, told reporters that his men were not
involved in the incident that took place yesterday.
According to one witness, dozens of bearded young
men entered the venue in the capital as the Saudi information
minister, Abdel Aziz Khoja, was touring the fair on the first
day it was open to the public.
They asked Khoja "how he could allow such a fair,"
and said that certain books on display were the work "of
infidels who would go to hell," the witness said.
Another witness said that the men went around the
fair harassing women, a number of whom then departed, and also
prevented a female television presenter from doing her job.
The Riyadh International Book Fair is an annual
event attended by a number of Saudis, and censorship on books
there is less stringent than that against bookstores in the
According to the Sabq.org news website, three of
the hardliners have been arrested.
Khoja on his Facebook page on Thursday criticised
"the harassment of visitors and publishers," and said that the
fair is "a cultural showcase for our country."
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the
Prevention of Vice, or the religious police, ensures the
strict application of the country`s ultra-conservative Wahhabi
version of Islam.