Kingston -- Irshad Manji (Pre-Emptive Censorship Is Offensive To Muslims - Aug. 23) condemns Denise Spellberg, a "non-Muslim history prof" at the University of Texas for panning Sherry Jones's The Jewel of Medina, a fictionalized account of the life of Mohammed's wife Aisha. According to Ms. Manji, Ms. Spellberg is part of a "postcolonial" academic conspiracy that prevents critical and creative interpretations of Islam from seeing print. The facts speak otherwise.
It was the author and her editor who sought Ms. Spellberg's endorsement. When the historian found her own research cited as the source for this salacious potboiler, she registered her disapproval. She was not alone; all but one of the authorities consulted, according to Random House, "expressed strong concern" about publishing the novel.
These negative reviews have not prevented Ms. Jones from cashing in on exoticism. But the question remains whether a major publisher should pander to and profit from prejudice? Absent the current political climate and prurient curiosity, would any publisher consider a $100,000 advance to an unproven writer for a historical novel about the seventh-century Hejaz? To equate a U.S. publisher's retraction of such an inflated contract for a trade paperback with state-sponsored suppression of art mocks the principle of freedom of expression.
And to imply that a scholar, by virtue of being non-Muslim, can't judge this situation with fairness and sensitivity, smacks of bigotry.