‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

You Still Can’t Write About Muhammad

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Offensive Editorial Cartoon on Free Speech

Offensive Editorial Cartoon on Free Speech

Asra Q. Nomani writes in The Wall Street Journal on Sherry Jones’s new historical novel, “The Jewel of Medina” about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Random House has pulled the book for fears of a political and extremist nature. In a statement, Random House said: “We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book.” Over at the Guardian, you can read more about the controversy.

Erin and I were discussing this earlier today and we sorted out on our own that this is obviously a very complicated issue. On the one hand you have many different people, bloggers, writers, publishers, etc, making judgements of a critical and editorial nature, some without having ever read the piece of fiction in question.

Should Ms. Jones be aware of sensitive nature of this type of fiction and its subject matter; without a doubt she should realize that this type of writing, especially in the post 9/11 climate in which we live, will result in many controversial views.

I personally feel though that she has every right(write 😉 to release fiction of this nature. Just as Random House has every right to pull the book. Now, just because I believe Random House has the right to pull this book from their shelves and not go through with the publishing, I also believe that they handled this poorly. I’m thinking someone over at Random House should have seen this coming and if they knew of the sensitive nature of this type of writing and the possibility of negative feedback from enraged people, they should have early on not offered her this deal and the money. To go back on this deal after so much time has passed is in poor taste.

Erin made mention of the fact that many people would take some offense at a person outside of the Islamic culture writing about such a sensitive issue. For those unaware, there is a scripture somewhere in the Koran that prohibits the criticism of Muhammad.

From Wiki:

Criticism of Muhammad is often equated with blasphemy, which is punishable by death in some Muslim-majority or Islamic states. This is because the Muslim belief is that Muhammad is the messenger of God himself, and that his actions were willed by God.[citation needed]Many Muslims believe that to reject and criticise Muhammad is to reject and criticise God.[citation needed]

The most notorious recent case of a critic condemned to death is that of Salman Rushdie, who wrote a novel (The Satanic Verses), satirizing Muhammad as a cynical schemer and his wives as prostitutes. In 1989 Rushdie was condemned to death in a fatwa issued by Iran’s theocratic leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rushdie had to go into hiding for years.

The only excerpt from the book floating around on the blogosphere is as follows:

“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.”

I guess what is considered offensive or sacrilegious is up to an individuals interpretation of what constitutes criticism or blasphemy. While I understand that there are certain types of issues and subject matters that are sensitive and if they are handled in the wrong way, they may incite anger, frustration, and in extreme cases hatred and/or violence, I believe in free speech and that people should be allowed to express themselves in what ever way they choose. I’m prepared to accept that with this my own beliefs and values may be questioned, and/or ridiculed.

It is why I’ve posted the cartoon up above. I find it to be in poor taste, this is true, but I believe in the right to post such a thing.

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Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2008 at 7:30 pm

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