In the West, books and documentaries have been cancelled. In France, recently, a group of intellectuals published a manifesto asking the Islamic world to eliminate anti-Semitic verses from the Koran. The initiative followed the murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll. The Turkish Council of Higher Education responded with a moratorium on establishing additional departments of French studies in Turkey. For years, under the presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish culture has been closing in on itself. “Going into a Turkish bookstore is like walking into a psychiatric ward,” according to the British journalist Gareth Jenkins in The New Yorker. Turkey sentenced journalists and writers to prison, and put publishers of foreign novels, such as its most famous translator, Necmiye Alpay, on trial. The problem, however, may not be just Turkish, but, as the author Robert R. Reilly called it, “the closing of the Muslim mind”.
A new report for the Atlantic Council written by Hossam Abouzahr, the founder of the Living Arabic Project, details the dramatic cultural change in the Arab world:
“The Arab world is now publishing only between 15,000 and 18,000 books annually, as many as Penguin Random House produces on its own. Egypt was once the largest producer of books with an output between 7,000 and 9,000 per year. Although its output was previously on the rise, it dropped by a whopping 70 percent after the 2011 revolution, and as of 2016 was only ‘showing signs of recovery’. Greece translates five times as many books into Greek as all 22 Arab nations combined”.