A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Nesrine Malik about the dearth of science fiction in Arabic literature. There are certainly elements of fantasy in Arabic literature, going right back to the Thousand and One Nights, but that is not quite the same as the futuristic stuff you find in science fiction.
I wondered it might have some connection with the tendency of Arab culture to focus heavily on the past. Nesrine later wrote an article for Comment Is Free, pointing out that Isaac Asimov once said "true science fiction could not really exist until people understood the rationalism of science and began to use it with respect in their stories".
Does science fiction perhaps tread too heavily on the region’s religious sensibilities? As Nesrine noted, “the genre could be viewed as an extension of a ‘foreign’ heritage with its roots in Darwinism – one at odds with a monotheist world view”.
If so, it’s a pity because imaginative writing about the future offers a lot of scope for subversive allegories and is potentially one way of circumventing the red lines that come into play when writing about the present.
I’d welcome emails from any readers who have thoughts about this. In the meantime, I was pleased to discover this websitediscussing Islam, Muslims and science fiction.