Ali Salem Wins 2008 Civil Courage Prize

 From the Egypt Daily News (17 November, 2008)

Ali Salem, Egyptian author and an outspoken critic of radical Islam, will be awarded the 2008 Civil Courage Prize, the Train Foundation said in a statement Thursday.

Salem, who has penned 25 plays and 15 books including “My Drive to Israel,” which documents his 1994 car trip to the Jewish state across the Sinai desert, will be awarded the $50,000 prize in London on November 19, the statement said.

The 72-year-old author has been an outspoken advocate for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and an isolated voice for tolerance in the region, the statement said.

His works have been banned in Egypt; he has been expelled from his country’s Writers Union and subject to threats.

The Civil Courage Prize, given to people who have demonstrated steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk, has been awarded annually since 2000 by the Train Foundation, formerly the Northcote Parkinson Fund.

The US ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Tuttle, will host the award ceremony. –AP

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And from the website of the Train Foundation’s Civil Courage Prize, this press release and an excerpt from their newsletter, below:

HEADLINE: “Noted Egyptian Author and Playwright Strongly Opposes Authoritarian Rule and Religious Extremism”

From the Journal of the Civil Courage Prize newsletter Vol. 4, No. 2 • November 2008

The Trustees of the Train Foundation have announced the award of the 2008 Civil Courage Prize to the Egyptian author and playwright, Mr. Ali Salem. Author of 25 plays, 15 books, regular contributor to newspapers and participant in international fora, he is noted for his advocacy of democratic government and of the normalization of Arab-Israel relations. He also has been highly critical of religious extremism, incurring harsh condemnation from opponents of his views throughout the Middle East and criticism from the Egyptian authorities, who have called him “a threat to national security.”

Yet he has not yielded to these pressures and has continued pressing through his writings for tolerance, civility and reasoned debate amid a persistent torrent of abuse. Perhaps best known for his 1995 book, A Drive into Israel, Mr. Salem showed in that work his open-minded approach to a country many of his countrymen regarded as the enemy. Fellow writers attacked him as a “sell-out.” Commenting on their reaction, Mr. Salem said to those who accused him of working for Israel that really he was “working for Egypt and Egyptians’ sake.” “I’m sorry for the pain I caused them by my trip—I forced them into independent and responsible thinking.”

Reflecting the breadth of Mr. Salem’s vision is his statement to an interviewer: “There is no first world, there is no second or third world; there is a village called this planet. And if someone is dangerous in a village close to Cairo, this person…will be very, very dangerous in Hamburg, in Paris…in New York.” Ostracized by his colleagues, and unable to have his plays produced or his writings freely distributed, Mr. Salem in 2005 was denied a visa by the Egyptian Government to travel to Israel to accept an honorary degree at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He previously had been expelled from the Union of Egyptian Writers.

Leading intellectual organizations in Egypt have blasted Mr. Salem for his stance on relations with Israel. For two years he was protected by bodyguards after another writer, Nobel Laureate Naguib Mafouz, was assaulted by radical thugs.

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