The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.Asra Q. Nomani in the Asian Wall Street Journal examines a particularly worrying case of censorship.
Publisher Random House's decided to pull the plug on historical romance The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones (for which it had paid an advance of $100,000) after it received cautionary advice came from University of Texas Professor Denise Spellberg that it could :
... incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.Nomani says :
This saga upsets me as a Muslim -- and as a writer who believes that fiction can bring Islamic history to life in a uniquely captivating and humanizing way. ... Literature moves civilizations forward, and Islam is no exception. There is in fact a tradition of historical fiction in Islam, including such works as "The Adventures of Amir Hamza," an epic on the life of Muhammad's uncle.Jones said that she was devastated after the book got spiked:
I wanted to honor Aisha and all the wives of Muhammad by giving voice to them, remarkable women whose crucial roles in the shaping of Islam have so often been ignored -- silenced -- by historians.Geoffrey Robertson QC,who acted for Rushdie in the Satanic Verses case calls for compensation in the Guardian and says :
We can't be overcritical of American publishers for cowering under terrorist threats. ... all who care about free speech have a duty to make this sort of censorship counterproductive. Random House should pay this author substantial compensation, and the book should be placed on a website so everyone can read it.Ah well, let's start with the Prologue to the novel which you can find here.
And there's another intriguing "is it censorship, or isn't it?" case in the Guardian today. Max Malik (left), claims that his novel The Butterfly Hunter was not submitted for final adjudication of the Muslim Writers award because of its controversial subject matter.
He was told that his novel had been dropped off the list "in error". Something that I find hard to believe given that he won top prize in the award last year! (Or if it was a genuine mistake, it indicates mindblowing incompetence!)