Diala Khasawneh writes in The Jordan Times about book censorship in Jordan, recounting a story that happened to her years ago when she was traveling with her mother across the borders from Beirut to Amman:

The original officer, his superior and a couple of curious men were now hovering around our car. We were being questioned about these books. Telling them the box had several books, some on art others on psychology, was not sufficient. They wanted to look through the box, see every single book. I had to tell them the title, a brief of the content and leaf through each one, by the third book my mother had lost it. “I am a professor, a teacher, I have material to teach students, a university, academia, research, knowledge …. She, my daughter, is a student, at school, reading, studying… What do you expect us to have in the car?…. What do you expect us to own?”

Books were simply not an easy item to smuggle through to Jordan. To be honest, we knew that. We had anticipated it, but still, the truth is, we are continuously shocked by it. I always hide books I bring back home from travel. I always distribute the music CDs in my suitcase and very carefully wrap the films. I am always worried they will be confiscated for censorship. Although there is a “procedure,” but in most cases one never sees these items again. Books are the drugs of Jordan.

A similar incident happened to me some years ago when I tried to ship my books from London to Amman. I went to Queen Alia Airport one month after my arrival in Amman to pick up about three boxes of books. Of course, I had to go through the censorship department, which consisted of one man in an office. The man, who had a cigarette dangling from his lip, flipped through the pages of every book I had packed into my boxes. I had to explain to “the inspector” that I was a student and that these were academic books I bought when I was studying in London. This did not convince him. He continued flipping through the books, which were mostly about media and journalism. I guess he found them somehow threatening. I waited patiently until he realized that I was not trying to smuggle anything that might endanger our society. Fortunately, that day, I was allowed to reclaim my books.

So while the jaded thirty-year-old in me blogs about book censorship in Jordan, there is a young motivated Jordanian who blogs about ways to encourage Jordanians to read. The jaded part of me somehow finds it easier to identify with Diala, who says:

Today in Jordan, the censorship institution destroys the books confiscated. They are all collected and regularly destroyed. Piles and piles of words and images, of histories and fiction, of truths and lies condemned with capital punishment. Books are the witches of today. Burnt to death at the stake. The books burn to ashes. The books are burning towards our death. We are at a standstill. The world moves on. We are sinking in the quick sand of ignorance. Our rivers are pitch black. We do not remember their original color and are too afraid to imagine.

… than with Lina who wants to start a campaign to encourage people to read. The jaded part of me believes that we first need to examine the root cause behind the mediocre number of readers in Jordan. I say let’s start with abolishing the censorship department. In this day and time — where anything can be accessed with no sweat — this department is simply a waste of space. Hat tip: [Euroarabe]