Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dhimmitude in Publishing

At least one American publisher continues to embrace a role akin to the dhimmi — though they have the decency to regret it.

[Note: "Dhimmi" means: "[From the Arabic] 'covenant of protection,' referring to special status given to non-Muslims under Islamic law, whereby they are given certain legal protections and obligations in exchange for a poll tax collected annually."]

In this context, the charge refers to the refusal of Random House to follow through on its contract to publish The Jewel of Medina, by Sherry Jones. I haven't read the book (it hasn't been published), but the Wall Street Journal story makes it sound fairly innocuous, even complimentary, from the perspective of a Muslim.

According to the story, Jewel is "a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet [Mohammed's] harem." The author says of her book, "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."

I didn't realize Muslims were offended by the idea that their chief religious figure had a sex life. Or, maybe they just dislike lurid romance novels in general and are outraged by one being written in which he's the major protagonist.

Or, Random House may just be exaggerating their risk. According to them:
[T]he 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."
Wouldn't that represent the perfect opportunity to publish not one, but a hundred such books? Not only would that, quite appropriately, stick a thumb in the eye of the censorship-loving jihadis, but dilute the risk to any one person in particular?

But, alas, publishing executives are on average no more courageous than those in any other field, and given the leftward bent of most of them in that business we could hardly expect otherwise.

A more stark villain of the piece is, not too surprisingly, not a radical foreign Islamist, 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.

It is a commonplace observation that great civilizations fall less from outside conquest than inner decay. In the case of America, most of that rot originates in the universities, dominated as they are by every anti-reason, anti-individual, anti-freedom philosophy invented in the past 300 years.

Still, we have to throw Random House a few crumbs. Quoting the WSJ story:
Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it "disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now."
No doubt we will all feel very disturbed when the U.S. more closely resembles the UK of today, followed perhaps not too long after by more closely resembling Muslim Spain in the 10th century.

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