Saqi acquires Native by Sayed Kashua

Saqi Books has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life by Sayed Kashua.

Kashua is an Israeli-Palestinian writer best known for his satirical weekly column for the Israeli daily Haaretz and his novels Dancing Arabs and Let it be Morning (shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award).

Native gathers together for the first time a selection of personal essays, first published by Haaretz between 2006 and 2014, exploring questions of identity, cultural divides and the deeply-rooted complexities of a tragic conflict, alongside witty and intimate depictions from his personal life as both a father and husband. Kashua writes with poignancy and candour about his children’s upbringing and encounters with racism, as well as the rising social and political tensions that led him to emigrate from Jerusalem to the United States in 2014.

Sarah Cleave, publishing manager of Saqi Books, who acquired rights from Abner Stein in association with the Deborah Harris Agency, said ‘Native is a wickedly sardonic, moving and hugely entertaining collection that offers real insight into the lived experiences of Palestinians in Israel. Written by one of the true masters of the form, this ostensibly light-hearted book is a nuanced and enlightening critique of Israeli society that exposes the difficulties of living as a Palestinian in the Jewish state.’

Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life will be published by Saqi Books in April 2016.

Sara Khan included in Debrett’s 500 list 2015

We are pleased to announce that Sara Khan, author of The Battle for British Islam has been included in Debrett’s list of Britain’s 500 most influential people 2015. Celebrating personalities as diverse as Tracey Emin, Hilary Mantel and Sir Richard Branson, the list recognises people of influence and achievement in British society.

Sara has been nominated in the prestigious War and Peace category, as she has campaigned for women’s rights in British Muslim communities for over 20 years. In 2009 she co-founded the charity Inspire, which aims to empower women to challenge extremism and gender inequality. September 2014 saw the launch of her #makingastand campaign which drew the support of the Home Secretary. Sarah is currently working with teachers across the UK to advise on the role schools have in preventing children from being drawn into terrorism.

In her forthcoming book, The Battle for British Islam, Sara outlines how to break the cycle of terrorism without alienating British Muslims, while challenging the government’s failure to engage with British Muslims in order to strengthen our communities.

The Battle for British Islam will be published by Saqi Books on 6 October 2016.

Malu Halasa at the Festival of Questions

‘Syria represents the epicentre of global conflict in 2015. Should military intervention increase in the region to solve matters? Do other strategies for ending the conflict exist?’

Malu Halasa, joined by Robin Yassin-Khassab and Simon Mabon, will be exploring these issues at the Festival of Questions in a talk entitled ‘The War in Syria: How Should the World Respond?’

Malu Halasa is an editor, write and curator, whose books include Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline and Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance.

The Festival of Questions is a three-week programme combining special events, panel discussions and cultural projects investigating the current social, economic and political climate. It runs from 2nd to 20th February 2016.


The War in Syria: How Should the World Respond?
Saturday 6 February at 3.30pm
The Music Room, The Storey, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster LA1 1TH
Adult £13
Concession £11.70
Under 26/ Student £9
For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

John McHugo to appear at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

John McHugo, author of Syria: A Recent History and the critically-acclaimed A Concise History of the Arabs, will be appearing at the 2016 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature to give a talk entitled ’14 Centuries of Arab History’.

John McHugo is an Arabist, international lawyer and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews University. His writing has featured in History Today, The World Today, Jewish Quarterly and on the BBC News website.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is a programme of literary debates, readings and workshops bringing authors and readers together to celebrate education and debate. It runs from 28 February to 12 March 2016.

Event 95: 14 Centuries of Arab History
Saturday 12 March at 11.30am
Venue TBA
Tickets £13

For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

Al Saqi Bookshop is Book Combined’s Bookshop of the Month

We are pleased to announce that Al Saqi Bookshop has been featured as Books Combined’s Bookshop of the Month.

In an interview with Books Combined, the director of Al Saqi Bookshop, Salwa Gaspard, explained how the bookshop and its publishing arm – Saqi Books – were established.  The bookshop has been “the beating heart of the Arab community in London” since 1979 and has always been committed to promoting a better understanding of Arab society as a whole. It is a place where people from all walks of life and backgrounds can browse, side by side, exploring an eclectic selection of books in both Arabic and English.

The shops stocks books on a range of subjects and has particularly large sections on art, fiction, poetry, cookery, and an increasing number of children’s books. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, and will always go the extra mile to track down  books for customers, old and new.

To find out more and to read the full interview, click here.

Interview with John McHugo on Syria

Is there a more tragic country in the world today than Syria ?  How did it descend into chaos, conflict, and crisis?

In an interview with Joseph Richard Preville and Julie Poucher Harbini on ISLAMiCommentary, John McHugo, author of Syria: A Recent History, offers insights into the complexities of the country’s past, present and future.

Here is an excerpt of the interview:


What was the long-term impact of the post-World War I redrawing of borders on Syria’s future?

The partition of Greater Syria by Britain and France was a fatal mistake that underlies so much of today’s instability. The arbitrary borders the two European powers imposed were just one of the causes. Another was that this Balkanisation of the area created brittle and insecure states that were set against each other by the pressures of the Cold War. Ultimately, the partition opened the door to religious militancy (although the causes of that are complex) and also hindered economic and social progress. Nevertheless, there is now a strong sense of Syrian national identity.  That is why I am still optimistic that, despite the horrors of today, all will come right in Syria in the end.

Syria gained its independence as a parliamentary republic — a democracy — in 1945. Was this French-imposed system a bad fit for Syria? What is it about Syria’s foundations as a nation that has proven to be so fragile?

I don’t think the parliamentary republic was a bad fit for Syria in itself (Syrians had drafted the constitution – although subject to a French veto on its contents). The French fought tooth and nail against anything more than local autonomy and conceded independence with extremely bad grace. This made it difficult for post-independence governments to tackle the monumental difficulties they faced: overcoming vested interests; tackling local and sectarian divisions -such as Damascus against Aleppo, town against country, Christian against Muslim; spreading education; and building a modern society generally. It is now too easily forgotten that Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan were once all part of the area known as “Greater Syria” (bilad al-shaam, in Arabic) that was ripped apart and denied the right to decide its own destiny.

How much do you attribute the ensuing conflict, and Syria’s history for that matter, to outside interference by Western and regional powers?

The conflict has been stoked by outsiders fighting for their own interests in Syria. Interference by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar has been tied up with Sunni Muslim identity politics as well as specific goals such as control of the Kurds (Turkey) and rolling back Iranian influence (Saudi Arabia). They have sometimes supported opposition factions that have been fighting each other as well as the regime. On the other side, Iran is concerned with maintaining strategic depth for Hizbullah and combating Sunni hegemony in the Arab world. They are all prepared to shed Syrian blood for the sake of their own interests.

As regards the USA, Britain and France, we forget how toxic their role has been in past episodes of Syrian history. This explains why Daesh, al Qa’idah and others can use their narrative about Crusaders so effectively. Western powers are hamstrung by their failure to acknowledge their own past acts, such as the arbitrary partition of Greater Syria and their connivance in the ongoing injustices to the Palestinians. I could give other examples.

One word answer — Are you optimistic about Syria’s future or pessimistic?


Click here to read the full interview.