Artist: Naguib Mahfouz: Egyptian novelist, recipient of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Confronting Bodies: Young Islamic extremists in Cairo
Dates of Action: October 1994
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Description of Artwork: Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian writer, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. Chitchat on the Nile (1971) is one of his most popular novels. It was later made into a film featuring a cast of top actors during the time of president Anwar al-Sadat. The film/story criticizes the decadence of Egyptian society during the Gamal Abdel Nasser era. It was banned by Sadat to prevent provocation of Egyptians who still loved former president Nasser. Mahfouz's prose is characterized by the blunt expression of his ideas. He has written works covering a broad range of topics, including socialism, homosexuality, and God. Writing about some of the subjects was prohibited in Egypt.
The Incident: Children of Gebelawi (1959), one of Mahfouz's best known works, has been banned in Egypt for alleged blasphemy over its allegorical portrayal of God and the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In 1989, after the fatwa for apostasy against Salman Rushdie, Egyptian theologian Omar Abdul-Rahman told a journalist that if Mahfouz had been punished for writing his novel, Rushdie would not have dared publish the Satanic Verses. Sheikh Omar has always maintained that this was not a fatwa, but in 1994 Islamic extremists, believing that it was, attempted to assassinate the 82-year-old novelist by stabbing him in the neck outside his Cairo home. He survived, permanently affected by damage to nerves in his right hand. Subsequently, he lived under constant bodyguard protection. Finally, in the beginning of 2006, the novel was published in Egypt with a preface written by Ahmad Kamal Abu Almajd.
Results of Incident: Mahfuz survived the assassination attempt but was permanently affected by damage to nerves in his right hand. Subsequently, he lived under constant bodyguard protection. In July 2006, Mahfouz sustained an injury to his head as a result of a fall. He remained ill until his death on August 30, 2006 in a Cairo hospital. Mahfouz was accorded a state funeral with full military honors on August 31, 2006 in Cairo. His funeral took place in the Al Rashdan Mosque in Nasr City on the outskirts of Cairo.