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Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 12:21 UK

Setback for Danish Koran translator

By Rachid Sekkai
BBCArabic.com

The Danish author who commissioned cartoons to illustrate his 2005 book on the Prophet Muhammad - sketches which sparked outrage across the Muslim world - is now struggling to find a publisher for his latest book.

Danish author Kare Bluitgen
Mr Bluitgen is having trouble finding publishers for his new book

Kaare Bluitgen has just finished two new versions of the Koran which he intends to publish side-by-side, in a single volume.

One text is a direct translation of the Arabic into Danish, including translations of the Hadiths - sayings reputed to come from the Prophet - as footnotes.

The second is a prose version of the Koran, translated in clear and simple language which Mr Bluitgen hopes will be accessible to ordinary Danes.

Necessary texts

The Danish writer and journalist says that his country needs this book.

"With the growing number of Muslims in Denmark, The Koran has become an important book," he says.

It's important to learn from each other and to learn the main values of our society
Kaare Bluitgen

Mr Bluitgen uses money from a state-related fund to finance his literary works.

"I live off the money called Biblioteksafgiften - a yearly sum paid to Danish writers by the state," explains Mr Bluitgen.

But Jakob Malling Lambert, from Copenhagen's Rosinante publishing house, says that, while he finds the text an ambitious project, he cannot consider publishing it.

"It's very hard for me to evaluate the potential of this book. We don't do these kinds of books at all. We simply don't have the expertise," he says.

But the same publishing house did publish Mr Bluitgen's previous books, including one for children, called The Koran and the Life of the Prophet Muhammad.

The latter included illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad's life as described in the Koran, though not the sketches that created such controversy.

Mr Bluitgen had asked cartoonists to create some drawings to accompany that book but, fearing reprisals from Muslim extremists, he decided not to publish them.

Communicating culture

But the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten did published a selection, triggering protests across the Muslim world and sparking a fierce debate about the limits of freedom of speech.

Children in Gaza take part in a protest against the Danish cartoons
Anger about the Danish cartoons reverberated around the world

The publisher denies that his decision not to go ahead with publication of Mr Bluitgen's latest Koranic book was motivated by fear of a similar reaction.

"You have to know about the Koran. You have to know the market," Mr Lambert explains. "We don't have the resources to do that."

After publishing his first book on the Prophet, Mr Bluitgen struck a deal with Rosinante's children's books department to write two volumes.

One, entitled Muhammad: The Prophet from the Desert and another, about Jesus, were both published earlier this month.

At a conference in Copenhagen last week, the writer spoke about his belief that books had a crucial role to play in communicating culture to children in a globalised world.

"It's important to learn from each other and to learn the main values of our society," he said.




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