A British author said Monday she has been banned from a Dubai literary festival because her forthcoming novel contains references to homosexuality.
The first International Festival of Literature in Dubai, which runs from Feb. 26 to Mar. 1, has authors including Margaret Atwood, Louis de Bernieres and Jung Chang listed on the program.
Geraldine Bedell, a journalist for the Observer newspaper and the author of several previous novels, said organizers had been discussing launching her book, "The Gulf Between Us," which is set in the Gulf, at the festival.
But she claims festival director Isobel Abulhoul later wrote to her publishers, saying: "I don't want our festival remembered for the launch of a controversial book."
"The Gulf Between Us" is scheduled to be published by Penguin in April.
The Associated Press made repeated attempts to contact Dubai officials and the festival organizers for comment, but there was no answer at the festival offices, and government officials did not immediately respond.
Bedell said Abulhoul wrote to Penguin toward the end of last year to say the book was not acceptable because one of her characters, Sheikh Rashid, is gay. The author also said festival organizers complained that "it talks about Islam and queries what is said."
Bedell, who lived in Bahrain for five years in the 1980s, said Sheikh Rashid "is only spoken about" and "assumed to be gay."
"Of course it does make reference to Islam because it's a Muslim country and part of it is set during Ramadan," she added. "But the narrator — a middle-aged Englishwoman — is incredibly respectful to Islam."
Another criticism from the organizers, according to Bedell, was that "it is set in the Gulf and focuses on the Iraq war." But she said the book's action was set in the months leading up to the Iraq war.
"They (festival organizers) were talking to Penguin about the possibility of launching my book there because my book is set in the Gulf and there are few books in English set in the Gulf," she told The Associated Press.
"It seemed to be a very good fit and everyone was very enthusiastic about it and it was full steam ahead, and then they had a copy of the book and then they wrote to Penguin and said 'No, it's not acceptable'.
"It's ironic because the book is incredibly sympathetic to the Gulf."
Bedell's publisher, Juliet Annan, said: "It's all very unfortunate. In effect the censor has said they will ban it, which means no book chain can buy it."
The festival's Web site invites people to "Join 65 of the world's leading authors in workshops, discussion groups and book signings at the first event of its kind in the Middle East."