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Religious books dominate sixth Erbil book fair.

Summary: International fair draws publishing houses from around the world

"It is beyond our expectations. The number of visitors is high and many people are buying books," said Shukri Shahin, from

Turkey, who was selling religious, art and philosophy books at the Erbil Sixth International Book Fair.

Walking the streets on Erbil city, Kurdistan 's capital, you will see few men with long beards. However, at the Erbil International Book Fair men with long beards and religious Muslims were everywhere. It was unexpected, and made you wonder where these men came from. Many of them left the book fair with armfuls of religious books.

Salahaddin University studen Mariwan Aziz, who visited the fair, believes 70 percent of the books at the fair were about Islam. Aziz believes this is to be expected, as at a book fair the sellers, religious and secular, want to exhibit their books and it is up to the visitors to decide which books they want to buy.

Dlwar Qadir, an archeology student visiting the fair said, "I wish there were more books about history, culture and archeology, instead of all these religious books."

The Erbil book fair is organized by al-Mada Publishing House, a well-known Iraqi publishing house based in Baghdad, which has a branch in Erbil city. Ehabd Abdul-Razzaq , head of al-Mada in Erbil, told Kurdish Globe that 350 publishing houses participated in the Erbil fair this year, mainly from Arab countries, such as Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, and as well as few from other countries such as Britain, Germany and Iran. According to Abdul-Razzaq, every year more people visit the Erbil International Book Fair and more people buy books. He said most years al-Mada sends invitations to many book publishing houses around the world and some decide to come and some decline. "Every year, more publishing houses decide to join the Erbil book fair," he said. Regarding the religious books, he said, "Well, we send invitations to all kinds of publishing houses, without favoritism."

Shukri Shahin, from Nile Publishing House in Turkey, which was selling mostly books about Islam said, "The fair is beyond our expectations. Here, people like to read. We have sold a lot of books already." Shahin noted that most of the books his company sold were written by Muhammed Fethullah GE-len, a Turkish preacher, author, educator and Muslim scholar living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, in the U.S. GE-len teaches an Anatolian version of traditional mainstream Islam, derived from Said Nursi 's teachings but modernizing them. GE-len condemns any kind of terrorism, and supports interfaith dialogue among the people of the book. He has initiated dialogues with the Vatican and some Jewish organizations. The company was also selling books by Said NursE, a Kurdish Muslim scholar from Turkey who died in 1960, including the Risale-i Nur Collection, a body of Qur 'anic commentary exceeding 6,000 pages. He is commonly known as BediE-zzaman, which means The Wonder of the Age.

A small number of publishing houses from Suleimaniya city, the second-largest city in Kurdistan, participated in the fair. Unfortunately, they had few books to sell. Muhammad Khidhir, owner of Hajji Qadri Koyee Publishing House, believes it is because of the current situation in Suleimaniya. Protests in Suleimaniya have been going on for the past 50 days, with protesters demanding the ouster of the Kurdistan government, improved services and living conditions and an end to corruption.

Khidhir had hoped that more publishing houses from Suleimaniya would participate in the fair because many visitors came to the fair looking for Kurdish books, or books written in Kurdish.

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Publication:The Kurdish Globe (Erbil, Iraq)
Date:Apr 10, 2011
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