Peak in Quran Sales: French People ‘trying to understand’ and ‘dig deeper

Since the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, book shops have witnessed their sales of the Quran go through the roof. In this regard, we interviewed a bookseller.

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Last week, radio station France Culture reported that Quran sales have substantially increased since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher shop in Paris. Ghislaine C., who owns a books store in Eastern France, confirmed this trend and kindly accepted to answer our questions.

Al-Kanz: We heard that Quran sales have strongly increased since the tragic events which took place last January in Paris. Have you experienced this trend in your own book store?
Ghislaine C.: As a matter of fact, I did also notice a significant rise in the sales of the Quran. My monthly supply was sold out within a week e.g. 4 times quicker than usual. This is definitely a general trend.

Al-Kanz: How do you explain it?
Ghislaine C.: The tragic events which took place in France on the 7th, 8th and 9th of January, from the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices, the deadly hostage crisis, the manhunt for the Kouachi brothers to the death of the Paris police officer, all of these events made many people think and look for answers.

Many have had and still have questions about Islam. They are trying to understand, dig ‘deeper’ into the subject, and do not solely rely on the information given by mainstream media. It is kind of reassuring in a way.

Al-Kanz: If there is one, what is the typical profile of a person buying a copy of the Quran?
Ghislaine C.: Usually, people – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – buy the Quran because they are on a spiritual quest. Most often, it is about getting a deeper religious knowledge, discovering a ‘new’ faith, or doing a comparative study of all religions.

However, since the Paris events, clients have become more versatile. Some non-Muslim clients come here to read the Quran ‘with their own eyes’, so as to check if the Holy Book actually promotes hate, cruelty, etc. Most of them are middle-aged, well-educated men.

Al-Kanz: Do your customers tell you about the reason why they come and buy the Quran?
Ghislaine C.: It depends. Some clients don’t and some actually engage in a conversation with me. In this case, I take the opportunity to discuss and explain certain concepts such as jihad, brotherhood in humanity, disbelief. Upon leaving, some clients even smiled at me with compassion and wished me ‘good luck’.

Al-Kanz: Do they ask specific questions? If so, can you share them with us?
Ghislaine C.: Regular questions are directly linked to the events. I will pick three: Is it really forbidden to draw the Prophet (peace be upon him)? Is this prohibition clearly stated in the Quran? Is it allowed to kill someone who would make such a drawing?

Al-Kanz: Some clients don’t purchase the Quran alone. Could you please tell us what type of Islamic books people tend to buy along with the Holy Book?
Ghislaine C.: Actually, most of the time I am the one who advises them to read other books to complement the reading of the Quran. In fact, understanding the Holy Book is not easy when you’re not familiar with the subject. They usually take with them a book explaining general Islamic principles, a book of Hadeeth (traditions and sayings of the Prophet) or a biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

I have also sold many copies of La fraternité humaine en Islam (Human Brotherhood in the Light of Islam) by Moncef Zenati, which is a book I really appreciate as it promotes a peaceful living together.

Prior to the recent events, my book section dedicated to terrorism, geopolitics, etc. was rather deserted but, since January, it has aroused much interest amongst Muslims and non-Muslims. Most customers who are interested in these fields have an academic level.

Al-Kanz: Can you tell us about their reactions?
Ghislaine C.: The clients usually are impressed with the diversity of the books about Islam. Furthermore, they realize Muslims actually do reflect on their faith and on how to implement it into their daily lives.

I would also like to underline the palpable unease of the Muslim youth. They worry about how the aftermath of these tragic events will impact on their everyday life and future in France, about the following course of events. They massively inquired about books dealing with eschatology i.e. the End of Time, the Day of Judgment and life in the Hereafter.

Al-Kanz: Finally, have you ever witnessed anything similar during your career?
Ghislaine C.: Yes, indeed, it reminds me of post 9/11…

[Translated from French ‘Ventes de Coran en hausse : les Français  « cherchent à comprendre », à « aller plus loin »’ by Mouna M.]

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Polyglotte, Mouna M. est traductice anglais-français, français-anglais et allemand-français, français allemand. Contact mkh.text[@] Pour la suivre sur Twitter : @MKHtext.

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