A division of Random House has pulled the plug on a work of fiction because of threats over its description of the lives of Mohammad's wives, and an expert on terrorism says the decision marks a significant advance in the Islamification of America because "some Muslims now feel free to make threats of violence even in the U.S."
The comments from Jihad Watch author Robert Spencer said it was the Random House division Ballentine Books that make the decision. He said the company "readily folded, rather than show some guts and stand up for the freedom of speech."
The book was supposed to be "The Jewel of Medina" by Sherry Jones, and the problem was highlighted in a column by former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani in that news publication.
"You still can't write about Mohammad," she wrote. Nomani said Random House bought Jones' novel for $100,000 in a two-book deal and plans were begun for an eight-city tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of the "tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet's harem."
But, Nomani wrote, "It's not going to happen. … The series of events that torpedoed this novel are a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world."
She concluded Random House feared the book would become a new "Satanic Verses," the 1988 novel by Salman Rushdie that "led to death threats, riots and the murder of the book's Japanese translator, among other horrors."
Thomas Perry, a deputy publisher, said after sending out advance copies, the company got "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," Nomani wrote.
The sudden withdrawal of a work of fiction makes the publication of another book, "Why We Left Islam," a compilation of testimonies about individuals' departures from the violent religion, more marked.
Spencer called "Why We Left Islam" "powerfully written and deeply compelling."
Compiled by Susan Crimp and Joel Richardson, the book published by WND Books documents the stories of "people of conscience" who left Islam. Spencer noted that each of the contributors now, whatever their status or situation, "lives under the death sentence mandated by the Muslim Prophet Muhammad for apostates from Islam."
Said one contributor, Ali, "The Quran is full of verses that teach killing of unbelievers and how Allah would torture them after they die. There are no lessons on morality, justice, honesty, or love. The only message of the Quran is to believe in Allah and his messenger."
According to Nomani, Perry decided to pull the plug on "Jewel" "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."
Nomani's commentary said that, as a Muslim, that disturbed her.
"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,'" Nomani wrote.
Nomani said Spellberg was upset that the novel "made fun of Muslims and their history" and asked the editor of a Muslim website to warn Muslims.
Apparently her concerns were raised by a written description of Muhammad's consummation of his marriage to Aisha, who had not yet reached 10 years old.
Spellberg said, "You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into soft core pornography," according to Nomani.
The complaints went viral immediately, and within hours a seven-point plan had been proposed to force the author to apologize to Muslims.
"If I searched around right now, I could probably find eight or 10 books that outrage me," Spencer wrote. "But the idea of bringing pressure upon a publisher not to publish them would be inconceivable to me. Those of a totalitarian mindset, however, do not hesitate."
On Spencer's forum page, tanstaafl wrote, "I thought we had freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country. I forgot – we're living under sharia law!"
Another poster, johnb, said it was no great loss: "Given this excerpt from the book, I'm ready to say good riddance: '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.' That by the way is the raping of a nine-year-old girl. Gentle? Yeah right on."