The Jewel of
LA Times -
Posted online: Monday, September 01, 2008
Once upon a time, Sherry Jones was a
Jones, 46 went from being a Book-of-the-Month Club pick to seeing her novel dropped by Random House, which said it had received “cautionary advice” that the fictionalised story of one of the Prophet’s wives might “incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.”
Jones and her novel, The Jewel of Medina, are subjects of debate from
“I wanted to tell the story of the women around Muhammad, and to honour them and him as well,” Jones said who otherwise writes on environmental issues for the Bureau of National Affairs.
She started writing a fictionalized story of Aisha, a young and much-beloved wife of the prophet. In April 2007, Random House gave Jones a $100,000 contract for the book and a sequel. Jones gave Random House a list of people who might review the book or write blurbs for it. One suggested reviewer hit the alarm switch. Denise Spellberg, who teaches Middle Eastern studies at the
Publishing insiders are of two minds on the cancellation of Jewel, with many calling it alarming and recalling the violence that followed the 2005 publication of Danish cartoons about Islam and the worldwide fatwah inspired by Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses.
Some progressive Muslims, including feminist journalist Asra Nomani, disagree. “OK, so this isn’t the next great piece of literature, but it pushes the ball forward in challenging dogmatic ideas about how you can relate to Islam,” Nomani said.
“We need movement from this static relationship we have with Islam. ... Look, Mary and Mary Magdalene have taken hits and survived somehow.”
Carol Schneider, the Random House spokeswoman, said the company called security consultants and Islamic scholars, “all but one of whom expressed strong concern.”
Recently, a Serbian publisher agreed to print 1,000 copies, but within 24 hours said it wouldn’t do another run after protests from a
They got into trouble too:
Publication delayed in
The Da Vinci Code
The Gulag Archipelago
The book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was banned in the
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Temporarily banned in the
Throwing Stones At Random House
Wednesday, August 27, 2008; Page A12,
The Post was entirely correct to criticize Random House for pre-emptively caving in to Islamic fundamentalists who might take offence with the novel "The Jewel of Medina" ["Random House's Retreat," editorial, Aug. 22].
But I can't help but think you would have a little more credibility on the subject if you hadn't allowed the same potential threats to dictate how you reported the controversy two years ago over cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The Post had its chance to assert its right to report current events as a major newspaper should by printing the cartoons, but instead you caved in to the mob just as Random House has.