Afghan Koran distributor arrested


Nov 4, 2007

The distributor of a new translation of the Koran has been arrested after complaints from religious scholars that the new edition was un-Islamic.

Former journalist Ghows Zalmay is also the spokesman for Afghanistan's attorney general.

He was arrested on the border on Sunday while trying to flee into Pakistan.

Demonstrators protested in two Afghan provinces against the new translation of the Koran into Dari, one of Afghanistan's two official languages.

Religious scholars are outraged at the new edition of the Muslim holy book.

They say that it is un-Islamic, that it misinterprets verses about alcohol, begging, homosexuality and adultery.

They also complain that it does not contain the original version in Arabic as a parallel text for comparison.

Both houses of the Afghan parliament have held emergency debates.

Senators have called for Mr Zalmay and the translator, himself a mullah, to be punished.

One said Mr Zalmay was "worse than Salman Rushdie", whose book, The Satanic Verses, caused widespread outrage in the Islamic world.

Another said Mr Zalmay was under the protection of a foreign security company.

In the northern city of Taloqan 1,500 university students took to the streets in protest, while in the south-east province of Nimruz 1,000 local people, including several mullahs, took part in a demonstration.

The Afghan constitution enshrines freedom of expression, but for many Afghans that freedom has clear limits and they do not include making interpretive translations of the Koran.