"We were asked by the general security to give our opinion on the book about 10 days ago and after our answer, the book was banned," Father Abdu Abu Kasm, president of the Catholic Information Centre, said on Tuesday.
 
"Our answer was that the book harmed Christian beliefs. It said that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and sired a bloodline," he said.

Abu Kasm said: "We denounce such attempts to harm Christian beliefs, and any other religious beliefs under the cover of culture."

"It may be allowed in other countries, but in Lebanon, the law forbids the harming of religious beliefs," he added.

Millions sold

Dan Brown's mystical thriller, The Da Vinci Code, has been an international best-seller with millions of copies sold in various languages, including an Arabic version published in Beirut.

Arabic language publishers Arab Scientific Publishers have the sole rights to publish the book in the Arabic language.

Company partner Ghassan Chebaro told Aljazeera.net:"Eight million copies of the book have been sold in the US and the book is a best-seller throughout Europe. It has been the number one book in Germany for the past three months.

"It is available throughout Italy and copies are even available in the Vatican, so I can't understand why it has been banned in Lebanon.

"We may not be allowed to sell the book in Lebanon, but we will find out in the next couple of days whether we can sell it outside of the country."

Censorship


"It is available through out Italy and copies are even available in the Vatican, so I can't understand why it has been banned in Lebanon."

Ghassan Chebaro from  Arab Scientific Publishers

Roger Haddad, assistant manager at the Virgin Megastore bookstore in downtown Beirut, said he had received "a phone call from the general security on Friday, asking us to remove the book from the shelves."

"It came after complaints by the Catholic Information Centre," he said.

"We took the Arabic version off the shelves which was released in Beirut about a month ago. We also removed the English and French versions which had been on sale here for months now," he said.

The ban prompted the president of the Lebanese publishers' association, Ahmad Fadl Allah Aasi, to address an open letter to Lebanese President Emile Lahud to denounce "suppression of freedoms," on Tuesday.

"We now have a ministry of culture, so why do security [services] deal with culture? We want to protect literary and creative productions against any suppression of freedoms," he said.

"If Beirut loses its freedom ... Lebanon would lose its reason to exist ... and Beirut [should] remain the window to foreign cultures in the region," he said.