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Islamic romance novels make splash

Written by eastern writer on Sunday, March 30, 2008

The best-selling novel Ayat-ayat Cinta (Love Verses) has sparked public enthusiasm in other "Islamic romance fiction" at the week-long Islamic Book Fair in Bung Karno Indoor Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta.

"The novel (Ayat-ayat Cinta) is relaxing, easy to read but on the other side it is capable of enlightening readers with Islamic values," visitor Yusmirah Fitri told The Jakarta Post Saturday while shopping at the book fair, which was officially opened by First Lady Kristiani Herawati.

Ayat-ayat Cinta is written by Habiburrahman El Shirazy and published by Republika. The romance fiction, which takes Egypt as its background, has been flying off shelves since 2004.

Reprinted 37 times with some 750,000 copies in print, there is also a movie by the same name by Citra-winning director Hanung Bramantyo now in theaters.

Fitri said she had read and collected almost all romance novels by Habiburrahman, an Indonesian who studied for a master's degree in Cairo. The 31-year-old has so far published six best-seller romances, including Ayat-ayat Cinta.

Republika said Islamic romance novels were enjoying a level of success quite unlike that of Islamic reference books.

"Ayat-ayat Cinta still holds the record, defeating any best-selling reference book we have ever printed," Republika's marketing coordinator Arif Budiman told the Post.

Besides Islamic romance fiction, biographical books featuring love stories involving eminent Muslim figures have also made a splash in literary circles, outselling major Islamic texts.

Publisher of "Pena", a book on the life of the Prophet Muhammad's wife Aisyah, said biographies with a high romance content were appealing to female readers, including some who wouldn't normally be interested in religious books.

"We see female book lovers commonly enjoy reading love stories, so we think why not try to have more people read Islamic books by publishing love stories of Muslim figures," said Pena's marketing director Muchaeroni. [The Jakarta Post]

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