Publisher’s Office Closes Over Security Concerns…Posted: September 30, 2008
NEW YORK — The U.S. publisher of a controversial novel about the Prophet Muhammad closed its offices as a “precautionary action,” but emphasized that no threats had been received and that “The Jewel of Medina” would be released as planned. (Read whole article HERE.)
“How chicken shit,” I muttered when Random House, Inc. dropped the novel The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones. The premise of the book is a fictionalized account of Muhammed and his child bride, A’isha. You would think a powerhouse like Random House would stand up for freedom of expression if not for American principle, at least for the sake of good capitalism. I mean, come on, the controversy generated by the press alone is guaranteed to be a selling point for a novel that might have otherwise gone quietly into a good bookstore near you.
Despite worries Random House cited over “offending Muslims,” (Do they take this much care in not offending Christians? Or other faiths? Honestly, I’m not sure, I’ll just stick to this example for now) (Beaufort Books, publishers of O J Simpson’s ‘if I DID IT’ (oh, come ON, he did it) apparently saw the potential. Read their press release HERE. This press release also states Sherry Jones has a two-book deal with them. Way to go!
I’m not saying this isn’t risky. Far from it. It’s as tricky as tickling a Rattlesnake with a stick. Extremists have already fire bombed publisher Martin Rynja’s home in London. He says:
“In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear. As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.
“If a novel of quality and skill that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West, but have a genuine interest in, cannot be published here, it would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages. The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time.” (Read this article HERE.)
A very informative blogpost at GalleyCat says:
When Sherry Jones told her publishers at Ballantine that they should send a copy of her novel about the life of one of Muhammad’s wives, The Jewel of Medina, to Islamic studies scholar Denise Spellberg, she never anticipated that Random House, Ballantine’s corporate parent, would decide they were afraid to publish the novel after all. Instead of giving Ballantine a nice blurb, Spellberg called her own editor at Knopf and told her putting the book out was tantamount to “a declaration of war” against Islam and would probably lead to terrorist attacks on Broadway—and that was enough to put Random off the idea altogether. (Read entire blogpost HERE.)
(For the record, I take exception to the phrase ‘wasn’t just fluffy historical romance,’ Ms. Jones. But I’ll hold off on this fatwa.)
The article also states that:
(Amanullah, meanwhile, posted an article on his altmuslim.com website yesterday arguing that actions like Random House’s are a symptom of “the stagnation and increased misunderstanding that comes from a stifled discourse.”) (Shahed Amanullah’s article can be found HERE. )
He argues against censorship, and advocates using words to argue cases against more words, not prohibitive measures.
Some radical factions, sad to say, aren’t wired to think this way. But snakes react from instinct, terrorists are deliberate. So perhaps I am hasty to judge. I wasn’t in New York City, or D.C. or Pennsylvania on September 11. Though I can know the fear that grazed me the day America was attacked, I can’t really know the immediacy those people felt on location. I do know I experienced that day the fearful uncertainty of what might happen next. I can only hope that I can function in spite of that fear. That I can be outraged enough at the idea someone seeks to supress me by threat or intimidation that I react appropriately. Those rat bastards, as Craig Ferguson describes them, won’t keep me down. Instead, I will count on my optimism and most importantly, my Faith, to lift me up.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. — Ambrose Redmoon
Look, I don’t even know if I’d be interested in reading this book, to tell you the truth. But I AM interested that a major publisher backed off because they were AFRAID.