Sales of the Koran have more than tripled in bookshops in Britain during the week since US pastor Terry Jones threatened, then postponed, an event at which Moslem-haters were invited to burn copies of the Islamic holy book.
The Koran is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. The first English language edition of the book was published in 1706.
The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Caliphate era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hazar Afsan, lit. Thousand Tales which in turn relied partly on Indian elements. Though the oldest Arabic manuscript dates from the 14th century, scholarship generally dates the collection's genesis to around the 9th century.
What is common throughout all the editions of the Koran is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryar (from Persian, meaning "king" or "sovereign") and his wife Scheherazade, possibly meaning "of noble lineage" and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves. The stories proceed from this original tale; some are framed within other tales, while others begin and end of their own accord. Some editions contain only a few hundred nights, while others include 1,001 or more.
Some of the best-known stories of the Koran are "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor". Great film, that last one.
Anyway, that's enough of that. The thing is, since pastor Jones drew even more publicity to the Koran, sales have gone through the roof, and there are now far more sympathisers with the Islamic cause than there were this time last week, which could be a bit of a problem, if you know what I mean.
One man who bought the Koran on the strength of what pastor Jones said about it, David Broomhandle, 42, of Warwickshire, said:
"The Koran is brilliant! I particularly liked The Tale of Attaf which contains an early example of reverse causation. It's a right, riveting, good read. What the hell did that pastor guy want to go burning a great book like this for? Knobhead!"