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Author Defends Book on Koran - 2002-08-09

The author of a work on the Muslim holy book the Koran is defending his study against those who are suing a U.S. university for requiring new students to read his work.

Writing in Thursday's Washington Post newspaper, comparative religions professor Michael Sells defended his book "Approaching the Qu'ran: the Early Revelations."

He says those who filed the lawsuit against the University of North Carolina are trying to pit Christianity against Islam. He says they believe Islam is a religion that espouses violence and urges its followers to kill non-believers.

Mr. Sells says while some Muslims use certain passages in the Koran as an excuse to attack the West, most stand in solidarity with their Christian neighbors against terrorism. He says his book highlights passages in the Koran that express Islam's core ideas and literary themes and makes no general claims about the religion.

Three students and the Family Policy Network, a conservative Christian group, are suing the University of North Carolina in federal court. They say Mr. Sells' book violates their constitutional right to religious freedom.

School officials say the subject is timely and informational and that asking students to read the book is not intended to promote Islam.

A North Carolina state appropriations committee Wednesday passed a resolution saying the school should not require students to read the book on Islam unless it gives equal time to all known religions.