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Paris auction withdraws sale of Napoleon’s Quran

French auctioneers Osenat have opted against selling off a Quranic manuscript removed from a famous mosque in Cairo at the time of Napoleon's foray into Egypt, two centuries ago, it emerged on Thursday.

Paris auction withdraws sale of Napoleon's Quran
Paris auction house Osenat withdrew the sale of a Koran taken from a Cairo mosque by Napoleon, after opposition fom Egypt. File photo: Hassan Syed

A French auction house has withdrawn from sale a Quran manuscript that was taken from Cairo during Napoleon's Egyptian campaign at the end of the 18th century.

Auctioneers Osenat said they had decided not to proceed with the sale in light of strong opposition in Egypt and representations from Cairo's embassy in Paris.

"We are aware of the feelings that the proposed sale has provoked in Egypt and after friendly exchanges with the embassy, we decided to withdraw the manuscript from this weekend's sale," company director Jean-Pierre Osenat said.

"It is a decision we took independently," he added, insisting that the auction house had not been subject to any kind of threat.

The 47-page manuscript of the opening suras, or chapters, of the Islamic holy book was taken from the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo by a Middle Eastern specialist who accompanied Napoleon on his Egyptian campaign.

Egypt's ambassador to France, Mohamed Moustafa Kamal, thanked Osenat for his understanding.

"The withdrawal of the said manuscript from the auction scheduled for June 9th reflects a great understanding of the very high moral and cultural value of this manuscript," the ambassador wrote in a letter to the auction house.

Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798 triggered a revolt in Cairo and the Al-Azhar mosque was the rebels' headquarters.

The French general ordered the revolt to be crushed and, during the ensuing attack on the mosque, the manuscript was saved from being destroyed by fire by Jean-Joseph Marcel, an orientalist who had accompanied Napoleon.

The manuscript now belongs to a private collector and Osenat admitted he did not yet know what would become of it.

"We will have to think about it," he said.

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ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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