Just between \starttext..\stoptext the code \directlua{tex.print("{\it abc}")} works as expected and I get an italic abc.

However, between \startxmlsetups..\stopxmlsetups this is different. Here
the result is: {endgraf ignorespaces it abc}
And leaving out one backslash before the it: {it abc}

I suspect some catcode trickery here. But can this be solved easily? Or do I need to program calling of some explicite Lua-function for this?

Hans van der Meer