Reactions mount against ban on publication of ‘Risale-i Nur’

Readers and publishers of the “Risale-i Nur” collection continue to speak out against a ban on the publication of the work, asking the government and the state not to interfere in the publication of the collection and to lift the ban.

The printing of the collection has been halted for some three weeks due to an alleged dispute over the work’s copyright status. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism will not grant ISBN numbers to publishing houses that intend to print the “Risale-i Nur” collection, claiming that they are not entitled to publish it because they are not legal heirs of the author.

“Risale-i Nur” was written by Said Nursi, a prominent Islamic theologian. The collection is a tafsir (exegesis) of the Quran that proves and explains the truths of faith in conformity with modern science. The collection of 14 books was written between the 1910s and 1950s in Turkey.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism last week said it would not remove the ban on the publication of the “Risale-i Nur” collection unless the dispute over the work’s copyright status is resolved. The ministry said it has been receiving complaints for some time that some publication houses are publishing the collection illegally. The ministry also said it will not allow publishing houses to reproduce, disseminate or make the work available to readers if they do not have the right to publish the collection.

Publishers say Said Nursi did not give anyone the rights to publish his work but personally stated in his books that all “Risale-i Nur” students are allowed to publish his work provided that they do not make changes to its content.

There are media reports that the decision to halt the publication of the “Risale-i Nur” collection might be because some publishing houses simplified the language of the work.

Professor Ahmet Battal, an academic at Turgut Özal University in Ankara, told the media that publishers will overcome problems arising from the copyright status of the “Risale-i Nur” collection if the state “takes its hand off the collection.”

The professor also said Nursi allowed all publishing houses to publish his work provided that they do not alter the material. “Placing the publication of ‘Risale-i Nur’ in the middle of a political debate would be disrespectful to both the collection and its author. If the state takes its hands off the collection, lovers of the collection will fix problems related to the publication of the work,” he stated.

The “Risale-i Nur” collection has been translated into dozens of languages.

According to Battal, most publication houses publish and distribute the collection to serve Islam, not to make money. He also said the Ministry of Culture and Tourism took a meaningless step by halting the publication of “Risale-i Nur” when many publication houses have been publishing the work for years. “Has the ministry awakened to this fact just now? Many publishing houses have been printing ‘Risale-i Nur’ for years. The ministry gave ISBN numbers to those publishing houses. What has changed now?” the academic asked.

Kazım Güleçyüz, the editor-in-chief of the Yeni Asya daily, which represents one branch of the Nur movement founded by Nursi, and which dedicates some of its content to “Risale-i Nur,” believes the halt of the publication of the work is a “project,” that he said is aimed at creating a rift between different religious groups that read and follow the collection. According to Güleçyüz, the government is using religious groups that have good ties with the government and wants to allow those groups to establish a monopoly over the publication of “Risale-i Nur.”

Democrat Jurists Association founding member Kadir Akbaş agreed that the denial of ISBN numbers to publishing houses by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the publication of “Risale-i Nur” is equal to a ban on the publication of the books. “The collection has been published freely by many publishing houses since the death of Said Nursi. Until very recently the ministry didn’t refuse ISBN numbers to those houses for the publication of the collection. There is no legal reason to explain the halt of the publication of “Risale-i Nur” today,” he noted.

Some claims emerged in the media that the ministry decided not to give ISBN numbers to publishing houses for the collection after receiving complaints from the family of Said Nursi due to a conflict regarding the work’s copyright status.

Seyda Ünlükul, the grandson of Nursi’s brother, however, denied the claims. He said neither he nor any of Said Nursi’s family members has made such a complaint. He said the ban on the publication of “Risale-i Nur” should immediately be lifted and that the ministry should begin to give ISBN numbers to publishing houses again.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN