Egyptian Students Continue Protests against ‘Blasphemous’ Novel

Published May 10th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The arrest of more than 100 students at a violent demonstration here over a novel they deemed blasphemous sparked more protests at Cairo's Islamic Al-Azhar University Tuesday evening. 

More than 500 students gathered in the campus of the university to demonstrate solidarity with their colleagues, including three girls, arrested Monday during violent protests against Syrian writer Haidar Haidar and his novel "Feast of the Sea Algae," which they say insults Islam. 

An AFP journalist saw the students sitting outside one of the entrances to the university, shouting: "With our blood and with our souls we shall sacrifice ourselves for Islam." 

Police in anti-riot gear had taken up positions in the street outside, but there were no immediate reports of violence. 

Some 3,000 students from Cairo University and 2,000 from Ain Shams University, also in Cairo, held similar protests earlier Tuesday. 

State security prosecutors said Tuesday they had begun investigating 75 of the arrested students, 15 of them in hospital with injuries from clashes with police, on charges of "inciting unrest, damaging property and resisting the authorities." 

The protesters Monday had called for Haidar's death and accused the sheikh of Al-Azhar, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, of having been silent over the affair, the liberal opposition newspaper Al-Wafd reported. 




Meanwhile, About 150 lawyers, clerics and families of some of the students who clashed with security forces over the book have asked Egypt to prosecute the novel's Syrian author on charges of apostasy, a police official said Tuesday.  

The complaints, filed separately, also called for the banning of the novel.  

Critics say that Haidar's novel called God "a failed artist," and depicted the Prophet Mohammed as "a man of many marriages" and said the Quran was excrement. Secular writers, however, accused the fundamentalists of taking phrases from the novel out of context to twist meanings.  

Haidar, in an interview with The Associated Press from his home in Latakia, Syria, accused the student protesters of attempting to impose a whimsical interpretation of Islam and a totalitarian cultural system.  

The complaints against Haidar are the second to be lodged against secular writers this year. In February, a Cairo court threw out a case filed by Muslim fundamentalists who sought to ban a book by Abdel Sabour Shahin, "Abi Adam," or My Father Adam.  

But Attorney General Maher Abdel Wahed on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the publication in Egypt two months ago of a new edition of the book, a judicial source said. 

Abdel Wahed charged the state security prosecutors with the case after a lawsuit was filed by Egyptian lawyer Abdel Halim Ramadan asking why the book, which he considers insulting to Islam, was allowed to be published. 

Meanwhile the rights group The Center for Human Rights Legal Aid (CHRLA) slammed Al-Shaab Tuesday for its campaign against the novel, accusing the paper of exploiting religion for political ends. 

It said the paper's campaign was "extremely dangerous for the stability and progress of society." – (Agencies) 



© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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