Wednesday, September 03, 2008

More on The Jewel of Medina

Publishers Weekly had an interesting piece yesterday. It reported that backers of a literary prize have announced they will not consider titles from Random House U.S. for an award until The Jewel of Medina is published.

You'll recall that RH dropped plans to release The Jewel of Medina after a University of Texas history teacher raised questions about whether it would cause offense to Muslims. See my post on the story here.

The Langum Charitable Trust said in its press release:
Random House has exhibited a degree of cowardly self-censorship that seriously threatens the American public’s access to the free marketplace of ideas. . . We cannot pretend that this type of cowardice will disappear without serious remonstrance. Until The Jewel of Medina is actually published, The Langum Charitable Trust will not consider submissions of any books, for any of our prizes, from Random House or any of its affiliates . . .

While any publisher has the right if not the duty to refuse to publish books that lack literary merit, Random House had previously decided this manuscript was highly publishable. It paid a $100,000 advance, and had arranged for foreign publication, Book of the Month Club selection, and Quality Paperback Book Club selection.
The trust offers two annual prizes: The American Historical Fiction and American Legal History Biography. These prizes are usually won by university presses and are accompanied by a $1,000 prize.

It also sponsors the Gene E. and Adele R. Malott Prize for Recording Community Activism.

Ironically, the last winner of the American Historical Fiction prize was Random House's author Kurt Andersen and his novel Heyday.

On August 22, Danish newspaper JP.DK reported:
Danish publishers association Trykkeselskabet has given its blessing to Sherry Jones' novel 'The Jewel of Medina' to be released in Denmark.

'Fear or threats should not keep a book from being published,' association spokeswoman Helle Merete Brix told Nyhedsavisen newspaper. 'It would be principally and entirely a renewal of all that Denmark has already been through with the Mohammed cartoon affair.'
On August 26, the UK's Guardian reported:
Last week, Serbian publisher BeoBook withdrew 1,000 copies of the book from shops across Serbia, following protests from an Islamic pressure group. BeoBook also apologised for publishing the novel.
The Guardian also quoted the Danish spokeswoman Helle Merete Brix:
"I think that whether you are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or atheist you have to be able to bear insults. You can't say 'I'm a Muslim, and that means I should be above criticism'. You can freely insult Jesus Christ, you can mock other religions."

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Quoted:
"I think that whether you are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or atheist you have to be able to bear insults. You can't say 'I'm a Muslim, and that means I should be above criticism'. You can freely insult Jesus Christ, you can mock other religions."

I am so glad to hear someone publicly saying this! I am soooo tired of people dancing around certain religions in order not to offend them, while people from other religions get sued because they dare to actually live according to their religious beliefs.

Why the double standard? We should either squelch all religions and give up one of our most basic freedoms, or we let ALL religions believe as they chose, say what they chose, and leave them alone about it. We should either work hard to avoid offending each and every religion in the entire world, or we show the world what free speech means and challenge them to accept it in a peaceful way. Anyone who allows themselves to get offended by someone who doesn't believe as they do needs to grow up.