EGYPT: Court bans magazine for blasphemy

CAIRO, April 9, 2009 (REUTERS) - An Egyptian court revoked the license of a literary magazine on Tuesday on the grounds that a poem it had published more than two years ago was blasphemous, court sources said.

Ibdaa (Creativity), a small circulation magazine issued by a government-controlled publishing house, lost its license for printing Helmy Salem's poem, "Laila Mourad's balcony" –a reference to a 1940s Egyptian movie icon.

Courts in Egypt, have in the past convicted individuals or groups of people in blasphemy cases but court sources said it is unusual to order a publication license revoked.

Such licenses are usually the purview of the government's Supreme Council of the Press.

The poem contains references to God, some phrased as questions, likening him for example to a villager force-feeding a duck.

The judge described the poem as "presumptuous drivel" and said a free press should be responsible. The ruling followed a lawsuit raised against the magazine by an individual.

The poem was published in an anthology of Salem's work in 2006 without a stir and was reprinted in the al-Wafd and al-Araby newspapers, which have much larger circulation than Ibdaa.