Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Battle of the Books

Random House, the place to find cowardly editors and publishers. Apparently everyone at this shop run by pusillanimous proofreaders believes the sword is mightier than the pen after all. It is my hope that Sherry Jones is able to find a publisher that is unfazed by the fear of muslims that has so easily intimidated Random House.


You Still Can't Write About Muhammad
By ASRA Q. NOMANI

Starting in 2002, Spokane, Wash., journalist Sherry Jones toiled weekends on a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Ms. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha's life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage. When Random House bought her novel last year in a $100,000, two-book deal, she was ecstatic. This past spring, she began plans for an eight-city book tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet's harem.

It's not going to happen: In May, Random House abruptly called off publication of the book. 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, among other horrors. In an interview about Ms. Jones's novel, Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it "disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now." He said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received "from credible and unrelated sources, 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."

After consulting security experts and Islam scholars, Mr. Perry said the company decided "to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel."

This saga upsets me as a Muslim -- and as a writer who believes that fiction can bring Islamic history to life in a uniquely captivating and humanizing way. "I'm devastated," Ms. Jones told me after the book got spiked, adding, "I wanted to honor Aisha and all the wives of Muhammad by giving voice to them, remarkable women whose crucial roles in the shaping of Islam have so often been ignored -- silenced -- by historians." Last month, Ms. Jones signed a termination agreement with Random House, so her literary agent could shop the book to other publishers.

This time, the instigator of the trouble wasn't a radical Muslim cleric, 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."

After he got the call from Ms. Spellberg, Mr. Amanullah dashed off an email to a listserv of Middle East and Islamic studies graduate students, acknowledging he didn't "know anything about it [the book]," but telling them, "Just got a frantic call from a professor who got an advance copy of the forthcoming novel, 'Jewel of Medina' -- she said she found it incredibly offensive." He added a write-up about the book from the Publishers Marketplace, an industry publication.

The next day, a blogger known as Shahid Pradhan posted Mr. Amanullah's email on a Web site for Shiite Muslims -- "Hussaini Youth" -- under a headline, "upcoming book, 'Jewel of Medina': A new attempt to slander the Prophet of Islam." Two hours and 28 minutes after that, another person by the name of Ali Hemani proposed a seven-point strategy to ensure "the writer withdraws this book from the stores and apologise all the muslims across the world."

Meanwhile back in New York City, Jane Garrett, an editor at Random House's Knopf imprint, dispatched an email on May 1 to Knopf executives, telling them she got a phone call the evening before from Ms. Spellberg (who happens to be under contract with Knopf to write "Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an.")

"She thinks there is a very real possibility of major danger for the building and staff and widespread violence," Ms. Garrett wrote. "Denise says it is 'a declaration of war . . . explosive stuff . . . a national security issue.' Thinks it will be far more controversial than the satanic verses and the Danish cartoons. Does not know if the author and Ballantine folks are clueless or calculating, but thinks the book should be withdrawn ASAP." ("The Jewel of Medina" was to be published by Random House's Ballantine Books.) That day, the email spread like wildfire through Random House, which also received a letter from Ms. Spellberg and her attorney, saying she would sue the publisher if her name was associated with the novel. On May 2, a Ballantine editor told Ms. Jones's agent the company decided to possibly postpone publication of the book.

On a May 21 conference call, Random House executive Elizabeth McGuire told the author and her agent that the publishing house had decided to indefinitely postpone publication of the novel for "fear of a possible terrorist threat from extremist Muslims" and concern for "the safety and security of the Random House building and employees."

All this saddens me. Literature moves civilizations forward, and Islam is no exception. There is in fact a tradition of historical fiction in Islam, including such works as "The Adventures of Amir Hamza," an epic on the life of Muhammad's uncle. Last year a 948-page English translation was published, ironically, by Random House. And, for all those who believe the life of the prophet Muhammad can't include stories of lust, anger and doubt, we need only read the Quran (18:110) where, it's said, God instructed Muhammad to tell others: "I am only a mortal like you."

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Random House’s editors did the right thing. They should be commended for not giving
in to the extremists. Decency and civility is alive and well.

Tahir

1:24 PM  
Blogger no_slappz said...

Tahir, I have no idea what story you read, but based on your response, it was not the story of a cowardly publishing house that ran like a scared child from an insignificant controversy.

Meanwhile, the terrified reaction of Random House reveals that decency and civility is dead.

Perhaps it is news to you, but Muhammad was obviously a schizophrenic nut who coughed up a few bits of the Koran while in the grip of a schizophrenic psychosis.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no_slappz,

Whatever you say I think it does not make any difference. Random House is not going to change their decision. Muhammad (PBUH) wins and you lose! Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad and all the Messengers (Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, Khider, Dawood, Yaqub, Yusuf, Zakria, Ishaq, Ismaeal, Nuha, Soliman, all the martyrs, the saints, the mystics, the good and decent people of all races). Amin! Ameen! Wouldn’t you want to be one of them? Blessed be the fruit of Mary’s womb. Blessed be Muhammad, The Last
Great Prophet. Final call has been served to you. Come, while there is still time for you to be our friend.

Listen to James Allen, “By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the Divine Perfection; by the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of the beast.”

James Allen would say, “Out of clean heart comes a clean life and a clean body. Out of a defiled mind proceeds a defiled life and a corrupt body.”

No-slappz, denigrating other people Holy Book or the Prophet does not serve well anybody. Next time when you say: Why they hate us? Remember what the African-American say: It was the hate that hate produced. It is not that they hate you. You should be asking: Why we hate them? It is your hate that produced hate! The more you hate Muhammad; the more we become committed to him.

Hazrat Inayat Khan would say to you: Man must first create peace in himself if he desires to see peace in the world; for lacking peace within, no effort of his can bring any result.
“I am the dust on the path of Muhammad,
the Chosen One." - Rumi
No_slappz,
"Come, sweep out the chamber of your heart,
make it ready to be the home of the Beloved.

Only when your self-love leaves it,
will the Beloved enter it.

In you, without you,
He will display His beauties for all to see."
(Mahmud Shabistari)
www.jerrahi.org
Tahir

11:59 PM  
Blogger no_slappz said...

tahir,

The list of muslim atrocities against America is long.

It starts with the assassination of Robert Kennedy by sirhan sirhan, a palestinian who was favored by yassar arafat.

Between the murder of Kennedy and 9/11, about 1,000 innocent Americans were murdered by muslim killers simply for being non-muslim Americans.

Based on what you have written, you are one of the many delusional muslims who lack the capacity for introspection and self-evaluation.

Unfortunately, you appear to be someone who has accepted the rantings of a schizophrenic nut and you seem to accept that these rantings are sufficient to guide governments and lives.

But, as always, you cannot account for the fact that islam has created a vast cultural wasteland in which women are virtual slaves and no one has the right of free speech or freedom of religion.

It's unlikely your blindness will cure itself, but the fact that the muslim nations are incapable of producing the material goods that muslims love should tell you that something is wrong in islamic lands.

Why are muslims afraid of women's sexuality?

Why do women lack rights and freedom in islamic countries?

Why do muslims commit honor killings?

Why do muslims believe Muhammad is beyond ridicule?

Clearly muslims are afraid of almost everything.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No-slappz,

“Glory to thy Lord, the Lord of Honor and Power! (He is free) from what they ascribe (to Him)! And peace be on all the Messengers! And Praise be to Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of all domains of existence
(The Quran).

I never thought you would claim victim hood. Is that what is driving your rants against Muhammad (PBUH), Quran, Islam, Muslims, and Arabs? You have unmasked yourself. You operate from victim mentality.

Let me tell you something. There is not a single group which has not suffered injustice in one form or another. Let me start with the list for you. The Vietnamese will tell you about the crimes of French against them. They will also tell you about Americans crimes and injustice against them. They will remind you of spraying of Agent Orange on their lands. The war maybe over, but the injustice and the effects of war goes on little Vietnamese babies and their mothers and families. They will tell you about the cluster bombs and napalm bombs. They will tell you about the birth defects in children because of Agent Orange spraying. Wouldn’t you call these atrocities and injustice?

The Japanese will tell you about the atomic bomb that you dropped on them, but you did not drop on Germany. Was it because the Japanese were not Europeans? Don’t tell us about atrocity. This is your advanced civilization. I don’t see any advancement.

Iranians will tell you how America toppled a democratically elected government in Iran and installed a dictator like the Shah. They will tell you to shut up and don’t tell us about democracy. Human rights. What human rights are you talking about? Didn’t the Shah secret police with the help of CIA torture thousands of Iranians? Stuff your human rights.

Latin Americans will tell you that America undermined democracy in Chile by toppling an elected government. The hell with your commitment to democracy and human rights.

Africans will tell you that America supported apartheid and helped put Nelson Mandela in jail for a quarter of a century. Tell us about atrocities. You have enslaved millions of Africans. Your slave trade resulted in 60 million blacks being killed. Got it. That is 60 Million!!! Your so called advanced civilization profited from the blood, sweat, and tears of black people. What is so advanced about your civilization? While your founding fathers claimed that all men are created equal; however, they themselves were slave owners. They profited from the blood, sweat, and tears of human beings. Is that you call advanced civilization? Tell me about your so called advanced civilization.

The Talibans will tell you Americans are ungrateful people. We helped you bring down the Soviets and then you abandoned us. You now call us terrorists. Is that called the American way of thanking people? You kill 1,000 Afghans every month. Which is greater atrocities your 1,000 Americans who died or our 1,000 Afghans that you kill every month. How many 9/11 you unleashed on Muslims? Can you count?

The Iraqis will tell you. There was no terrorism until you Americans came to Iraq. We had peace and security. The hell with your freedom. What good is freedom without peace and security? Every month hundreds of Iraqis are killed because of your “unjust” and “unnecessary” war in Iraq. You spill human blood for few barrels of oil. Don’t shove it down our throat your freedom and democracy. Your so called advanced civilization is worst than the Mongols. We prefer Saddam. Your soldiers are disgrace to the whole human race in plundering our resources and raping little girls. Your soldiers have no moral or ethical values. Your commanders and generals are worst than the Mongols’ commanders and generals. You talk about human rights, but you are the worst violators of human rights in the world. Talk is cheap. We don’t buy your propaganda.

No-slappz, The Armenians will tell you how terrible are the Turks. Muslims will tell you how Hindus have committed crimes against them. Hindus will tell you about Muslims injustices. Bengalis will tell you about the Pakistanis atrocities against them. Kashmiries will tell you about the crimes the Indians committed against them. Palestinians will tell you that the so called Holocaust survivors (so much for Jewish compassion) are worst than Hitler’s SS. Yes, the Jews will tell you about their injustices. They will tell you six millions of them were gassed. The African-American will tell you that during slave trade 60 million blacks perished. That is like ten Holocausts that visited the people of Africa! This was perpetrated by the so called ADVANCED CIVILIZATIONS. They will tell you that they were promised 40 acres of land and two mules, but have not seen anything of it. Broken promise is form of atrocity. American-Indians will tell you how these so called people of advance civilizations stole land from them and broke treaties after treaties. Don’t forget the Aborigninies of Australia.

Algerians will tell you how the French killed millions of them. Bosnian Muslims will tell you how the Serbs slaughtered them while the whole world watched and did nothing even though the Europeans always said, “Never, Again Never”. Chechens will tell about the Russians atrocities. Philippines Muslims will tell you about the crimes that Catholic (so much for Christian love) committed against them. Muslims of Thailand will tell you how Buddhists majority have committed atrocities against them. The same goes for Burmese Muslims. The European Muslims and American Muslims tell you about harassment and discrimination. Chinese Muslims will tell you about the crimes against them that the communist Chinese government committed. Copts in Egypt will tell you Muslims discriminate against them. Bahais will tell you how the Iranian government considers them heretics. The list goes on. You are welcome to add yours to it.

This brings me to Rumi:

One Song

Every war and every conflict
between human beings has happened
because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different
on this wall than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.*

*Page 214. A Year with Rumi – Daily Readings – By Coleman Barks.

As for your other rants, here are the responses.

Muslims are not afraid of anything. They only fear God. All other fears are illusions. Your so called whole advanced civilization is based on one principle: To paraphrase Lord Palmer, the West has no eternal enemies or eternal friends’ only eternal economic interests. Islam is different. Islam has eternal values for all times, all peoples, and all places. Islam message is eternal. You can not comprehend it because you have no eternal values that you can speak of. Solzhenitsyn called your so called advanced civilization, “vulgar culture’ and “pagan”. Your so called advanced civilization stands for what? Oil? Material things? Falsehood? Hate? Bigotry? Racism? Eternal economic interests? Paris Hilton? Britney Spears? John Edwards? Islam stands for the message of God and His Messengers (Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be up them all). Muslims are the followers of Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Who do you follow? What are your values? Who are your role models?

In what way is your civilization advanced? You can destroy the environment at quicker pace. You can kill more people with your WMD. Your scientific labs are built to destroy humanity. People of your civilization have bigotry, hate, and racism as their daily bread. Your hearts have not seen the light of God yet. Your hearts are still living in the dark ages. Your heart is filled with hate for anyone who looks different from you. That is not my problem. It is your problem. You need deal with it. Get over it.

All cultures have abused women. Westerners have done it and the Easterners have done it too. No one group can claim monopoly. As for which group has abused women more than the other, the scholars have been writing about it for generations. I think Walmart is located in the so called advance civilization, but it does discriminate against women. Hillary Clinton probably did not get elected because she is a woman. Ask her supporters. Last time I checked she was running for a president in the so called advanced civilization.

I guess young women jumping up and down in their under wares as cheerleaders is considered advancement for women or competing for Miss Universe. Many will tell you it is exploitation of women, and it leads to abuse of women in the society. We Muslim do not believe in exploitation. We are committed to the values that Virgin Mary espoused. We do not share your world view. Our message is the truth. Yours is based on pure economic interest. We view the world as spirit. You people view the world as matter/materials things. Our God is God. You god is material things.

Muslims believe that no useful purpose is served by ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad or any other Messenger of God or anything that people hold sacred. Would you call your African-American friend a “Nigger” or place a swastika on your Jewish colleague’s desk? Why not? Of course, I am not sure whether you are of Jewish faith. If you are of Jewish faith, would do something that will offend your Christians colleagues? Jewish have gone to great length to hide their identities. Read Allan Dershowitz’s Autobiography.

Your so called advanced civilization is in the eyes of the beholder. Muslims see nothing that is advanced in your culture. Your hearts are full of hate. Your hearts are not advanced. Your thinking is not enlightened. You invade, kill, and destroy for few barrels of oil. Islam is opposed to aggression, injustice, oppression, and exploitation. Your so called advanced civilization is surrounded by Jahiliyyah. Muslims will not get impressed by your rants about your advancement. Muslims are followers of the ways of Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, and Muhammad.

Your war on terror is not a war on terrorism, but it is the war on Muhammad, Quran, Islam, Muslims, and Arabs. You are committed to complete annihilation of the Islamic faith and its followers. I have news for you. Islam can not be destroyed. Many empires tried to destroy it, but in process, they disappeared from the world map. Learn from history. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Islam is eternal. God has guaranteed its protection. Ask the Soviets. They took on Islam. What happened to them? They thought they were an advanced civilization.

Islam is not a religion of peace or religion of war. Islam stands for Truth and Justice. Islam is religion of Truth and Justice. Truth shall make you free. Where there is no justice; there is no peace. Islam is the answer for personal and world problem. Muhammad is The Last Great Prophet. Final Call is Sounded.

Come, if you want to be one of us, you are welcome. If you don’t want to be one of us, we will still think of you as our friend. We understand. Come, www.jerrahi.org.

"Come, come, whoever you are.
Unbeliever, fire worshiper, come.

Our way is not one of desperation.

Even if you break your vows a hundred times,
Come. Come again."
---------(Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi)
"Whether the Koran is of eternity?
I don't question that!...
That it is the book of books
I believe out of the muslim's duty."
-------Goethe

"Stupid that everyone in his case
Is praising his particular opinion!
If Islam means submission to God,
We all live and die in Islam."
---------Goethe

“Glory to thy Lord, the Lord of Honor and Power! (He is free) from what they ascribe (to Him)! And peace be on all the Messengers! And Praise be to Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of all domains of existence
(The Quran).

Tahir, Ya-Haqq

6:25 PM  
Blogger no_slappz said...

Tahir, your latest response shows all the usual lunacy that muslims offer when they face questions regarding freedom and individual rights.

In short, you have offered the standard idiocy that freedom does not exist and that islam is the basis for all thoughts and judgments.

Again, the muslim world is mostly a dead zone. There is zero creativity and invention in the muslim world because independence and creative thinking terrify the promoters of islam.

No patents are issued in muslim countries because nothing is invented by muslims living in muslim countries. The creativity behind a truly novel idea insults islam.

Women, despite you goofy and pointless digression, are slaves in islamic countries. Nevetheless, you revealed you view that men should dominate the lives of women and end any efforts on their part to live independent lives.

Anyway, your list of victimized societies is proof you have no understanding of logic.

You seem incapable of understanding the difference between discrete events in history and a religious philosophy that has guided muslims for 1,400 years and led to mostly misery and despair.

You also have failed to grasp the basic fact that most non-muslim socieities have made mistakes at one time or another due to temporary political misguidance. But those temporary mistakes are always remedied and the society invariably then begins to follow a better path.

However, islam does not do this because muslims claim to believe in the supreme guidance of the Koran. Hence, muslims will remain in misery and despair eternally, unless they are in regions free from islamic governments.

Anyway, as your comments show, you are a moron, which is the state of most islamic minds.

4:11 PM  

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