July 16, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5363

Criticism In Egypt Over 'Islamic' Version Of Cinderella

July 16, 2013
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 5363

The Egyptian paper Roz Al-Youssef reported recently about an "Islamic" version of Cinderella that has been published, in which the heroine and other women wear veils and the plot is replete with Islamic motifs. The book, published by Dar Al-Yanabi', was edited by Mas'oud Sabri, a member of Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi's International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), and was illustrated by Rif'at Muhi Al-Din. According to Roz Al-Youssef, Cinderella in this version is portrayed as a girl who patiently bears the disasters befalling her and asks Allah to help her continue bearing them. She never says a bad word about her stepmother or stepsisters despite their cruelty to her, and the fairies are replaced in the story by a rich old woman.[1]

In February 2013, the Coptic Egyptian weekly Watani published an extensive article[2] about the book by the weekly's deputy-editor Robier Al-Faris. He wrote: "I never imagined I would see Cinderella covered in a hijab. This universal story tells of a pretty girl who suffered at the hands of her stepmother and was rescued by kind fairies who brought her closer to the prince. There is no justification for this hijab or her Islamic appearance." Al-Faris also presented responses by several other journalists and writers. Some criticized the Islamic version of Cinderella, calling it a distortion of the universal fairytale, while others justified it in the name of artistic freedom and cultural pluralism.

The following are excerpts from the responses:

The Islamic version of Cinderella (image:
Roz Al-Youssef
, Egypt, June 8, 2013)

Writer Hala Fahmy likewise claimed that this version is a distortion of universal literature for children, and said: "We can balance our children's [education] by presenting them with literature from our own unique heritage, be it Islamic or Christian, without creating such a work that is an insult to the children's minds and sensibilities." Egyptian author Gaber Asfour likewise contended that this version of Cinderella constitutes Islamization of universal literature and added: "This is an intentional distortion that indicates poor creative abilities... [Thankfully,] presenting this universal story in this fashion will not diminish the [original] character [of Cinderella]... This book is a distortion, but no one can distort the original Cinderella."[3]

On the other hand, author Mahmoud Abu 'Aisha claimed that every culture has the right to adapt universal tales to its own norms, and added: "Many authors from all over the world have drawn on the heritage of 'A Thousand And One Arabian Nights' and on stories from the Koran..." He qualified this by saying that adapted stories must remain true to the spirit of the original, and that the adaptation must be explicitly acknowledged: "We must clearly state that [the work] was used in this way and write on the cover that the story is an Islamic perspective on Cinderella..."

Author Mustafa Bayoumi claimed that, in principle, every writer has the right to rewrite any story according to his own artistic views, but expressed concern that people feel the need to "Islamize" Cinderella: "The character of Cinderella does not belong to anyone... The problem is not presenting Cinderella in this way, but rather the inability to portray the story from other perspectives."

Illustrations from the standard version of Cinderella (top) vs. the Islamic version (bottom)[4]


[1] Roz Al-Youssef (Egypt), June 8, 2013.

[2] Watani (Egypt), February 6, 2013.

[3] Watani (Egypt), February 6, 2013.

[4] Roz Al-Youssef (Egypt), June 8, 2013.

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