Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Jewel of Medina.

My condolences to anyone who may have pre-ordered journalist Sherry Jones' novel, "The Jewel of Medina", from Amazon .com. As I'm sure those of you who did pre-order it are aware, Random House has canceled the publication of the book which writes of the Prophet Mohammad's child bride Aisha.
An article in reuters [Random House pulls novel on Islam, fears violence.] says,
"Random House deputy publisher Thomas Perry said in a statement the company received '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.' "
You reckon?
On her blog , Jones wrote,
"There have been no terrorist threats over THE JEWEL OF MEDINA. Only warnings of possible threats."
Was Random House being overly cautious (paranoid) in it's decision to cancel publication?
Would Muslims be insulted by what Jones wrote?
Who can say for certain?
I'm not the first to blog on this. One blog, which goes under the trashy title, smart bitches trashy books has the post TheJewelofMedina:ThePrologue which includes a link to the prologue of the novel in pdf format.
I'll be honest with you; I started to read the pdf but was unable to finish. The little I did read cannot be called pornography, by any stretch of the imagination, but I did find it in poor taste. Jones writes in the first person as Aisha and the assumption that she knows the thoughts of the girl comes across, to me, as disrespectful to Muslim sensibilities.
There are certainly enough places on the web where one can read more about Aisha and Muhammad ("Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad. She stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine, when the marriage was consummated.") and the speculation that she had committed adultery . We don't need Jones bodice ripper.
All in all, "The Jewel of Medina" just seems like a monumental waste of time for both reader and the author.

Links:
Random House pulls novel on Islam, fears violence
Controversy Surrounding The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones
Publisher Random House has pulled a novel about Islam over protest fears
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aisha
Criticism of Muhammad
sherryjones.blogspot.com

15 comments:

sara said...

I actually had Dr. Spellberg for a class at UT. I thought she was a great professor, and an extremely intelligent woman. We didn't agree on everything, but she was extremely fair and open to different perspectives. The fact that she trashed this book probably indicates that it was just that - trashy. When you submit your book to someone and ask for criticism, you should expect criticism - especially when you ask a history professor, an expert in the field. I read historical romance ebooks all the time, but I would never, ever ask one of my history professors for a review of them. Random House pulling this book has, I believe, less to do with Professor Spellberg's critique and more to do with fear of a backlash. While I personally disagree with this decision, as a business, they are well within their rights to do so. And the fact that this book has generated so much buzz before even becoming available is great for Sherry Jones - someone will snap this book up immediately, and everyone will want a copy. It's a win-win.

RTS said...

The Wikipedia articles on both Denise Spellberg and Sherry Jones are being considered for deletion. I don't know how long the links to these articles will remain active.
An article written by Asra Q. Nomani [You Still Can't Write
About Muhammad
] quotes Spellberg as calling the novel a "very ugly, stupid piece of work" and the little I read of the prologue doesn't contradict that assessment.
The same article also quotes her as saying,
"I don't have a problem with historical fiction. I do have a problem with the deliberate misinterpretation of history. You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into soft core pornography."
I can't argue with that.

RTS said...

After looking into the story a bit more, I found out "Sara" pasted the same comment on another blog controversy-surrounding-the-jewel-of-medina-by-sherry-jones

Tracy said...

That is odd "sara" posted the same thing on our blogs, I would bet she has done so elsewhere. Not sure what to think of that:)

Anonymous said...

I am Dawn and I am posting all over the place too - because this book is offensive to anyone who appreciates quality writing.

In order to be fair – I asked myself 4 questions replacing Mohammed with Jesus so I could attempt to understand.
1. If a book made an accusation with no basis of fact that Jesus had been a child molester would I be offended?
2. If this same book described sex scenes between two members in the bible written in such a way to resemble a harlequin novel or soft core porn movie would I become more upset?
3. If I were a publisher and your primary objective is producing works for the express purpose of making money would you publish something that would most likely not sell too many copies and be offense to many people?
4. If I was a publisher and I asked a respected colleague who was an expert on the field of history what they thought I they said to drop it, Would I?
I wonder how you answered. I do not wish this book to be banned and it is not banned. It is simply not being promoted or sold by Random House. If Sherry Jones wanted to bring people together then why on earth did she think insulting people was a way to do it?
What bothers me most though about this controversy is the increasingly larger trend that America is ok with being lied to - from our media to our novels. I think it’s time for us to stand up and say we will not support garbage writing and garbage news. No more lies or deliberate misinterpretations of the truth. It is time for Americans to wake up and take some control of our media in all forms. This means not funding this type of material.

RTS said...

Thank you, Dawn.
This is the best comment on the book that I've come across anywhere.

Anonymous said...

It should be no big deal. THEY have to get over it not us. Was the Roman Catholic Church happy with the publication of "Sex with the Virgin Mary", did they threaten to bomb Amazon.com. It is their problem not ours. We have free speech and we must protect it

RTS said...

It looks like "Sara" has been busy.
She also pasted the same comment on The Daou Report

RTS said...

My response to the last 'anonymous' can be found on this post....More on the Jewel of Medina.

lyone said...

But Muslims don't deny that that Muhammed was a child molester. They *brag* about this. It is part of their sacred literature and their sacred history: that Aisha was only nine years old when Muhammend began having sex with her. So Dawn's comment is more than a bit off.

I am also a Professor of Religion--at a different college--and I could not disagree more with Dr. Spellberg on this whole matter. She has really intervened in a way that has taken away someone else's free speech. And she has acted as a censor by sending up a "red flag" to those who might find the novel offense.

In a free democracy, being offended is one of the things that gets us all talking to one another. But she has managed to shut down the dialogue. I think her behavior is shameful for someone who supposed to be an academic and an intellectual!!

Dr. Lyone Fein
Professor of World Religions
Denison University

lyone said...

BTW, Random House OWNS the book. This means that Sherry Jones cannot simply go publish it somewhere else.

Neither Sara nor Dawn seem to have a clue as to how the publishing business works. But publishers *buy* manuscripts from authors. This means that if a publisher wants to kill a book, it is an easy thing to do--just buy it from the author as if you intend to publish it, and then pull it from publication. Presto! Dead book.

The Jewel of Medina can never be published now unless Randon House publishes it, or unless they willingly sell it to someone else, including Sherry Jones.

Yes, Dr. Spellberg has effectively--with her alarmist phone calls to those who operate various Muslim blogs and other websites--curtailed Ms. Jones' freedom of speech. Quite the coup.

RTS said...

Dr. Fein
Thank you for your comments.

" In a free democracy, being offended is one of the things that gets us all talking to one another. But she has managed to shut down the dialogue. I think her behavior is shameful for someone who supposed to be an academic and an intellectual!!"

When I read that comment, I could not help but think P.Z. Myers and his desecration of the Eucharist.
I realize that the two situations are very different, but do we not have some responsibility to not purposely offend?
Judging from the number of blogs I've come across dealing with The Jewel of Medina, I would hardly think the dialogue has been shut down.

Anonymous said...

Gone through the prologue "Jewel of Medina"" and various articles and comments (Fo,r and against), especially Dr. Spellberg and Dr Lyone Fene, i will just like to add, please leave Muslim by them self, have any Muslim had insulted or rediculed Chirst or Moses, weall believe in Chirst and Moses and all other prophets. There lot have said about freedom of speech and expression, this one's freedom ends at domain of others. Freedom of expression has been an instrument to vent hatared against Islam.
More over even though as claimed by the misinformed and deliberate mischief monger author a fiction, what was her source? History has never beenneutral and can never be, due to human factor. Even the story exsit, who was narrator, Mohammad's enemy, or any Jew present in Medina during those times.
Believes others hould be respected.
Dr Hamdani Riaz

Saqib said...

In response to Dr. Fien's comments

Dr. Fien,
I am not sure where you get your facts especially when you say "...But Muslims don't deny that that Muhammad was a child molester. They *brag* about this..".
Name me one well known Muslim public figure who agrees with what you said? Who gives us the authority to judge someone who lived 1400 years ago in a completely different culture/region than ours?
Muhammad married Ayesha lawfully with the consent of her parents, which is NOT considered "Child Molestation" even with current American standards/laws (which we both know were instituted only be a few decades ago). Michael Jackson maybe considered as "Child Molster" both not Muhammad.
I would implore you to read up on USA laws on Child Marriage (which allow child marriage with parent’s consent and court order) laws before you call Muhammad a "Child Molester". For your convenience I have listed some of them below:
(see http://www.coolnurse.com/marriage_laws.htm for a list of laws by state)
"Child marriage is legal in the United States. Laws vary from state to state but generally children 16 and over may marry with parental consent. Under, 16 generally require a court order in addition to the parental consent.
West Virginia: If either of you are under 18 years of age, you must have the consent (in person or written) of a parent or guardian. If written, the consent must be notarized. There may be special provisions for an underage bride who is pregnant.
Wisconsin: If either the bride or groom is under 18, you must have written, notarized consent from his or her parents or guardian. There is a Consent form available to be signed by parents or guardian before a County Clerk.
Wyoming: Applicants must be at least 18 years old or with written parental consent. Applicants under 16 years of age only with court order. “
Laws for other states are available on that website.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, practices child marriage through 'spiritual (religious only) marriages' as soon as they are ready to bear children as part of its polygamy and laws have raised the age of legal marriage in response to criticism of the practice.
Child Marriage is still legal in a lot of countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East and some of the Eastern European states. We in our ignorance and arrogance do not want to read about and understand other cultures but are quick to pass judgment against them.
Again, it is arrogant to think of our culture as superior to other cultures which are much older and wiser than ours. Before judging Muhammad's culture let’s look at our own moral culture for a change. We have biggest divorce rate in the world, we have the biggest porn industry in the world, every other day we hear our priest's and even parents molest children, multiple sexual partners before marriage is acceptable and fashionable, and we have the biggest teenage pregnancy rate in the world.
So I ask you again, what moral authority do you have to judge Muhammad? He did have multiple wives which was the norm not only in Arabia at the time but also a common practice in China, Persia, India, and Europe. I strongly urge you to look at and worry about the moral evils of our own culture before bashing others.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for free speech but we need to draw a line somewhere, especially when free speech has the potential to ignite violence which may harm our own. This is not much different than getting a speeding ticket, in a free country why aren’t we able to speed as much as we want? Because over speeding is dangerous not only to the person who does it but also to others that are not.
Also, It is hypocritical to defend writers (by shouting ‘free speech’) who disrespect Islam or its most scared figure, but damning writers/public figures who deny “holocaust “or even talk ill about it. British writer David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison at an Austrian court for denying the Holocaust. So why are we sensitive towards the Jewish faith and not the Islamic faith? You are a professor of World Religion you should be better able to answer that.
We brag about being the biggest proponents of peace in the world. What peace will this book bring to the world? Haven’t we learned from the violence that engulfed the Muslim world after the publications of Sulman Rushdie’s book and the Danish Cartoons (disrespecting Muhammad)?
There are many other peaceful and decent ways to start a dialogue between us and the 1.61 Billion people of the Muslim world. It should be done with mutual respect and not with controversial, inaccurate and disrespectful text of this book “Jewel of Media”.

noushkin said...

Dear Saqib,

Thank you for enlightening all of us on the laws of child marriages. As a woman of the 21st century, I cannot say that I support the idea (even with parental consent), regardless of whichever religion or culture those involved may belong to. However, I do find it strange that a Professor of World Religions could make such a statement as "Muslims don't deny that that Muhammed was a child molester. They *brag* about this." I have never in my life come across anyone who used the words "child molester" or "bragged" about Muhammad's child bride. I have come across people of different cultures and their views on child marriages. Many cultures. Many religions. No one ever "bragged" about this. It is very frustrating to read comments made by the Professor. The sheer generalisation itself is off-putting. Feels like I'm reading a bigot's comments. We can all give our own "critiques" to the Jewel of Medina, based on what we read or based on what others have written, but if our comments are strictly personal, with no basis except our own prejudices, I suppose we have to relook at the way we see the world, redefine our opinions if so many people think we are wrong. The least we could do is a little soul-searching before bashing someone else's culture or religion. Why not look at the similarities instead of the differences?

So Saqib, and the rest of the people who have written based on true knowledge and well-informed ideas, thank you very much. It was a pleasure reading such open and intelligent debate/commentary.