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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2007, 13:31 GMT
Hamas reverse on schoolbook ban
Cover of Speak, Bird, Speak Again
Banning the book sparked fears of a religious clampdown in schools
The Hamas-run Palestinian education ministry has lifted a ban on a children's anthology of folktales following widespread public outcry.

Officials had demanded the book, which features mild sexual references, be removed from school libraries.

It was seen as the first sign the Islamic party was keen to impose its Muslim beliefs on Palestinian society.

But Education Minister Nasser Shaer said the "tempest in a teacup" was over and the decision had been rescinded.

About 1,500 copies of the book, Speak, Bird, Speak Again were taken off the shelves in 150 school libraries in the West Bank and Gaza last month after some of the language was deemed inappropriate.

Most commentators assumed this was on the grounds of references to genitalia, although one Hamas official said it was because of the slang Arabic used.

Several dozen people, including academics and writers, protested outside the Education Ministry against the ban on Saturday.

Sharif Kanaana, who co-compiled the book, said the public outcry had taught officials "not to take hasty and unjust decisions on issues related to our culture and heritage".

It remains unclear however when the books will be returned.

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