Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Novel on Muhammad's Birde is Cancelled

Books that slander the Christian faith and cast aspersions on Jesus himself seem to have little trouble finding willing publishers these days. Yet books that dare talk of Islam or its founder, even when they are not slanderous, would seem to be cautiously avoided. Such was the case with the almost new novel The Jewel of Medina by journalist Sherry Jones, a story of Aisha, child bride of Islam's founder Muhammad, five years in the making. The publisher, Random House, initially showed such excitement for the book that they gave Jones a $100,000 contract for not just this work, but for a sequel as well.

However, it only takes one voice of protest to stop the presses, and the voice of Denise Spellberg, who teaches Middle Eastern studies, was just such a voice. After reading a galley of the book she declared that the novel was a "declaration of war...explosive stuff...a national security issue." Random House eventually reached a "termination agreement" with Jones due to "cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

For all the rhetoric about how violent and muderous Christians were during the Crusades (and that is a topic worthy of a separate discussion itself, not to mention a discussion of Islamic war and violence by its founder in their early history), I can't recall a single story about a similar book canceled in our day due to concern over "violence by a small, radical segment" of Christians. Why are there some Muslims that are driven to "acts of violence" when they believe their religion is somehow slandered or besmirched? It has been argued that the Qu'ran (Koran) does not condone violence of this sort, yet from where else could the inspiration for such acts ultimately come? Is this a political-nationalistic-ethnic kind of issue? Is it merely a matter of some radical Muslim theologians and religious leaders?

By the way, there is yet one last 'twist' to this story that is interesting in its own right. Shahed Amanullah, a developer in Austin who runs the website altmulim.com, noted that: "The thing that is surreal for me is that here you had a non-Muslim write a book, and you had a non-Muslim complain about it, and a non-Muslim publisher pull the book." Could it be that we are no so overly sensitized to offending, and so fearful of terroristic violence, that we duck for cover even when there is no apparent reason to do so? How sad that we have come to this point.

[There is an article at Wikipedia on The Jewel of Medina that provides additional background and information. Information for the above article was taken from the Chicago Tribune, Sunday, August 24, in an article by Erik Lacitis.]

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