Lebanon has banned Dan Brown's bestselling novel "The Da Vinci Code" after Catholic leaders complained it was offensive and insulting to Christianity. The novel—with its depiction of Jesus Christ marrying Mary Magdalene and fathering a child—has drawn harsh criticism since it was first released last year.
According to news agencies, the decision by the General Security Department to pull the book off the shelves around Lebanon was made after the Catholic Information center, which speaks for Lebanon’s Catholic community, recommended that it be banned.
“We were asked for our opinion on the book and we gave it,” the Rev. Abdo Abu Kasm, who heads the center, told the Associate Press on Thursday. “We cannot accept that anyone insult our dignity and beliefs. … Christianity is not about forgiveness to the point of insulting Jesus Christ.”
As a result, bookstores were told by security authorities to pull French, English and Arabic copies off their shelves meanwhile banning local publishers from distributing more. Bookstore managers and publishers were not pleased of the decision, as the Arabic version had only been released about 10 days ago but was already proving popular.
"This is censorship, people should be allowed to read what they want ... This book is fiction, everyone knows it's fiction. It is not political or propaganda or history," said Roger Haddad, assistant manager at Virgin Megastore's bookshop in downtown Beirut.
Kasm, however, told Reuters, "There are paragraphs that touch the very roots of the Christian religion ... They say Jesus Christ had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene, that they had children."
"Those things are difficult for us to accept, even if it's supposed to be fiction,” he continued. “Lebanon is a country with many different religious communities and there are still laws that ban articles that offend different communities."
The Security Department, which consults with Christian and Muslim religious authorities on all books dealing with sensitive subjects, routinely screens imported publications to prevent the distribution of material it deems harmful to the country’s security and polices.