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In the covered alleyways of old Najaf in Iraq, poetry and philosophy books compete on laden shelves with economic treatises, the Quran and other theological tomes for students' attention. Since leaving his native Bangladesh for the Shiite holy city three years ago, religious student Mohammad Ali Reda has regularly frequented secondhand bookstores. While Iraq is majority Shiite, only a minority follow this strand of Islam in Reda's homeland, like most of the rest of the Muslim world.'A city apart' Several decades Reda's senior, Mohannad Mustapha Jamal el-Din a religious student turned teacher also feels at home among the bookstalls. Najaf's 750-year-old market helps make it a "city apart," he enthused.Until the 1950s, secondhand bookstores held weekly meetings for students in Najaf, according to Hassan al-Hakim, an expert in history and Islamic civilization.
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