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JustHere | November 15, 2017

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Controversy at QU library: First segregation and now censorship

Controversy at QU library: First segregation and now censorship

Shabeb Al Rumaihi, a junior at Qatar University and JustHere contributor, weighs in on the latest controversy on censorship in the country’s largest institution of higher education.

Since its opening last year, the new library has been receiving attention for all the wrong reasons. As per the original design it was quite clear that there would be no segregation.  Male and female students would be sharing the same academic space for the first time in history of the University. However, after complaints, fuelled by a social media frenzy (on the very first day) changes were made, forcing male students to enter the library from the fire exit!

Segregation, obviously, is going to be defended on the grounds of “culture” and “traditions”. But the latest incident involving censorship of academic books is going too far.

A few days ago some students shared on twitter a screen shot of books in the library (below, left) and started an attack against QU. The University released a public apology (below, right) that it would constitute a committee to censor references that are not accepted in our society.


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Which begs the question: What is the significance of an academic institution then? Why are they blocking academic sources? Censorship has no room in the education of mature students. And why apologise? Qatar University could have sent a message that educational pursuit is not negotiable and nothing should be censored. Censorship is a violation of the academic integrity.

Censorship is a violation of the academic integrity… has no room in the education of mature students.

The title of the reference book that started this controversy is ‘S/he changing sex and changing clothes’. Yes it is inappropriate at certain levels and it is not acceptable in our society; but many students in the social sciences may need to conduct research on relevant resources. Anyone can google the description of this book and identify the topic. Furthermore, giving the excuse that our students can be misguided does not justify censorship. We can’t decide on what will misguide the students. We need to look at the bigger picture. We are living in the 21st century and we can’t keep our society in a bubble that censors everything.

Instead of controlling the entire electronic library by committee that can dictate what is acceptable, why not have a safe search option and maintain the freedom of research.

The university library is not for 5 year olds. It accommodates faculty, staff, students and graduates. Qatar University aspires to be an international research university, but it can’t if there is censorship.


  1. Robby

    I am an Indian and back home in my country too we are facing similar problems, if not the exact problem. We have one generation that wants to break free from the mold and explore the unknown in a quest to enrich their knowledge and on the other hand there exists a generation that does everything possible to resist any such change. Sigh! C’est la vie

    I strongly agree that “… educational pursuit is not negotiable and nothing should be censored.”

  2. Tazeen Qureshi

    Isn’t censorship what Qatari media and education is all about Shabeb? Why are you even surprised?

  3. Great piece. The only voice with the unpopular stance at the social media. It would be great if this gets published in local papers – in Arabic.

  4. amna

    in one way I understand the need for these types of books, however if censorship rules aren’t strict it would lead to many problems in the future, if one is using this book for educational purposes he/she would be considered oppressed by banning this book but to some it would be censoring negative information that one must not know too much detail about. In my opinion I believe we need to be strict on censorship because of the time we are living in as a Muslim majority country by censoring what is believed to be considered bad or offensive content we can try to (not 100% of course) preserve what little innocence we have to each other. I know so many people that got affected to information that should have been censored but didn’t, which affects them religiously and socially. However for students there should be a type of system that allows them to receive these sensitive information to use it for good in research or education not just for curiosity, because as they say “curiosity killed the cat”.

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