‘Jewel of Medina’ controversy a result of beancounter publishers
Sherry Jones knew it would be hard to get her first novel published. Getting “The Jewel of Medina” into bookstores was even harder. “I wrote the book with the utmost respect for Islam”.
After overcoming the formidable hurdles any new author faces, Jones was overjoyed to sell the book to Random House. Then Random House canceled its publication at the last minute for fear the historical novel about Aisha, child bride of the prophet Muhammad, would incite riots in the Muslim world…
Aisha was 9 when she became Muhammad’s wife. She’s often described as Muhammad’s favorite wife, and it was in her company that Muhammad received the most revelations….She became one of the top scholars of Islam’s early age, with some historians crediting her with one-quarter of Islamic religious law. She died at 65.
That story drew a response from author Salman Rushdie, who criticized his publisher for pulling the novel.
The Langum Charitable Trust, which awards lucrative literary prizes, said the company was too easily intimidated. “Random House has exhibited a degree of cowardly self-censorship that seriously threatens the American public’s access to the free marketplace of ideas,” the trust said.
There was a time when Random House stood for courage and unrestricted thought. Long past.
Fortunately, there remain a few publishers with backbones, here in the States and abroad. We may come to a time when self-publication and distribution via the Web becomes the last best choice.