The Jewel of Medina - censored
Things went relatively quiet for a while, mainly until the Danish cartoons about Mohammad which elicited threats of violence, then caused actual violence, and led to demands for censorship. The Danish cartoonist, not to mention the newspaper and its editor, have since become internationally known, and circulation is very healthy indeed
But now there is a novel by one Sherry Jones – The Jewel of Medina – about Mohammad’s relationship with his youngest wife Aisha, to whom he was betrothed while she was around the age of six, and whom he married when she was around the age of 11. It is somewhat racy, and Cranmer has read an excerpt which is certainly on the peripheries of literary pornography, but the Wall St Journal tells us that the publisher, Random House, abruptly called off publication of the book (someone should tell Amazon). ‘The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world. Random House feared the book would become a new "Satanic Verses," the Salman Rushdie novel of 1988 that led to death threats, riots and the murder of the book's Japanese translator...’
But it was not any objection by radical Muslim clerics which have caused Random House to withdraw from the deal, but an American academic: ‘In April, looking for endorsements, Random House sent galleys to writers and scholars, including Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas in Austin. Ms. Jones put her on the list because she read Ms. Spellberg's book, "Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr.
‘But Ms. Spellberg wasn't a fan of Ms. Jones's book. On April 30, Shahed Amanullah, a guest lecturer in Ms. Spellberg's classes and the editor of a popular Muslim Web site, got a frantic call from her. "She was upset," Mr. Amanullah recalls. He says Ms. Spellberg told him the novel "made fun of Muslims and their history," and asked him to warn Muslims.
‘In an interview, Ms. Spellberg told me the novel is a "very ugly, stupid piece of work." The novel, for example, includes a scene on the night when Muhammad consummated his marriage with Aisha: "the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion's sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life." Says Ms. Spellberg: "I walked through a metal detector to see 'Last Temptation of Christ,'" the controversial 1980s film adaptation of a novel that depicted a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. "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."’
It then seems that the Islamic blogosphere swung into action, for the very next day a blogger known as Shahid Pradhan posted on a Web site for Shi’ite Muslims – ‘Hussaini Youth’ - under a headline, ‘upcoming book, “Jewel of Medina”: A new attempt to slander the Prophet of Islam’.
This was swiftly followed by a seven-point strategy to ensure ‘the writer withdraws this book from the stores and apologise all the Muslims across the world’.
And so Random House has done, to its great shame, and to the dishonour of the founding principles of the Constitution of the United States of America.
There is manifestly no freedom of speech or freedom of expression where Islam is concerned: there is a de facto unwritten blasphemy law in operation throughout the Western world.
But if this is the response to a positive portrayal of Mohammed’s love life, what would be the response to the story of his other wives and concubines, especially those of Jewish heritage? What would be the response to the telling of the tales of systematic genocide, beheadings, barbarism and butchery; to the stories of children raped and sold off into slavery; to the gang rape of wives and daughters; to the looting and destruction of property; to the forced conversions on pain of death?
It is all in the Qur’an.
Cranmer awaits the film. The response to ‘The Life of Brian’ will seem like a comparative walk in the park. The distributors would not need to spend a penny on marketing or promotion, for the news would spread like wildfire. It would be a marketing strategy to die for.