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The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Cairo
"Source of their anger- a novel that few, if any, had read"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
'Blasphemous' book no longer on sale
injured student
Religious students pelted the police with stones
The Egyptian government says a book that provoked violent clashes in Cairo this week is no longer on sale.

The Culture Minister, Farouk Hosni, who has been strongly criticised by Islamists over the reprinting of a novel by the Syrian writer Haidar Haidar, said about 1000 copies had been sold but that the rest were now in the ministry's stores.

Thousands of students took part in protests yesterday around Al-Azhar religious university and police used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse them.

Several students who were injured remain in hospital.


Riot police protect the university
Riot police protect the university
Al-Azhar University is the most prestigious institution for mainstream Sunni Muslims, attracting students from around the world.

Riot police were deployed around the university on Tuesday, but no disturbances were reported. The students demanded Mr Hosni's resignation for allowing the book to be published.

Intellectuals have defended the book, accusing the Islamists of inciting violence.

Clashes worst in years

The clashes were amongst the worst in Cairo since the protests against the Gulf War in 1991.

Students, shouting religious slogans, pelted police with stones from behind the fence of the university buildings.

The police shot back with teargas and rubber bullets as the protests grew increasingly violent.

Ten cars and two buses were reportedly damaged in the exchanges.


Injured student
Several protesters were badly injured

The book that triggered this protest, first published in Beirut in 1983, was released in Egypt in November by an institution affiliated with the Culture Ministry.

The novel's plot centers on two leftist Iraqi intellectuals who fled the injustice of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s.

The characters blame political oppression in the Arab world on dictatorships and conservative movements.

In one of the most controversial extracts God is described as a failed artist.

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08 May 00 | Middle East
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