A new novel by an English professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Qatar campus has been banned there with little explanation for the reason.
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, who has taught at VCUQatar for three years, said her book, "Love Comes Later," highlights "the dilemmas facing those from traditional societies with modern ambitions."
She said she offered to consider a separate edition for Qatar when the book was submitted to the ministry of culture for approval, but received no reply.
Although one Qatari media report focused on a single kiss, Rajakumar did not speculate on the reason for the censorship.
"The distributor's agent told me the officials told him, the book was banned because it was about 'Qatar and Qataris,' " she said by email. "They did not further elaborate to me or to the distributor."
Rajakumar is not deterred by the rejection. She is working on a sequel to the novel and said distribution of books in Qatar "does continue to grow and develop."
Rajakumar, who received her doctorate from the University of Florida, said she feels no restrictions on academic freedom as the result of the censorship.
"The decision to ban the book for sale in Qatar does not prevent the rest of the world from reading it or my writing it," she said. "Nor did the content prevent the dozen or so Qatari male and female citizens from reading early drafts, offering ideas, or supporting the book even now."
She also said she sees a difference "between policies and people; this ban is similar to how Qataris love Americans but are often confused by decisions of our officials or media outlets."
VCU Provost Beverly Warren described Rajakumar as "a prolific scholar" who founded the Doha Writers' Workshop. She added in a statement that "it is our understanding that this faculty member continues to try to engage ministry officials and discuss ways of getting her novel on bookstore shelves, and was willing and interested in revising it in a way to be sensitive to cultural concerns."
VCUQatar is a branch of the School of the Arts in Doha's Education City.
Rajakumar said she has lived in Qatar for nine years and met her husband there. They have two children and live in Doha.
The country is "experiencing unprecedented social change and infrastructure development," she said. Her observations about the country have resulted in six edited anthologies, a memoir and two novels set in Qatar.
On her website Rajakumar said she wrote "Love Comes Later" knowing there was a possibility it would not be published in the country where it was set.
So she tried to "write within the sensibilities of the public culture," which means "the big three objections" of sex, atheism and politics are not included in her examination of life in Qatar "for modern twentysomething Qataris."
"There's a death by car accident; reluctant engagements; difficult conversations with parents; and of course, one passionate kiss," she writes.
Of herself, she adds, "I fancied myself an Oscar Wilde of the desert; a writer of my times producing content as part of the society I lived in."