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Animal Farm out of bounds for pupils

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

ANIMAL Farm, A Town Like Alice and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone have been banned from private schools in the United Arab Emirates by the ministry of education and youth.

The l26 banned books include the Book of Genesis, as well as numerous history, English and maths textbooks.

Animal Farm is studied in the first year of the International Baccalaureate which is offered in some UAE schools. No specific reason was given for banning any of the books.

The Khaleej Times reported that among the subjects banned by the ministry are "any mention of the so-called Jewish Holocaust", images that show contempt for Islam, the prophets and Arabs, images that harm public decency, social customs and traditions, and books that promote drugs, superstition, indecent exposure, alcohol, and the eating of pork "in an unjustified and frequent manner".

The Gulf News added that books could be banned if they contained "false historical facts that go along with the Western way of thinking and culture" or if they used the word "Israel" instead of "Palestine".

Ali Mehad Al Suwaidi, an education under secretary, said private schools should make sure that the contents of books are cleared by the ministry. Some are amended by officials and pupils at private schools have reported books with pages removed, text whited out or photographs or other images blacked out.

There are many English language schools in the UAE, offering a variety of systems, from British A-levels to American high-school diplomas and Indian secondary-school qualifications.

Wealthier Emirates families often send their children to English language schools, but they are wary of their children being influenced by Western ways which they see as contradicting Islamic teaching and local traditions and values.

Last year an education official said there was only one person checking the curricula of more than 100 English language schools.

It is common for teachers and school librarians to self-censor books, but it is not always possible for staff to predict what will be regarded as offensive. George Orwell's anti-communist satire Animal Farm features pigs as villains and Harry Potter may have been regarded as promoting superstition.

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