Gibson Square is to publish Sherry Jones' controversial novel The Jewel of Medina in the UK. Random House US pulled the novel in August citing fears that it would cause offence to Muslims.
Gibson Square's offer for the book's British rights was the first English language one made after the Random House decision. It was made by Gibson Square publisher Martin Rynja, and accepted after further discussions with Sherry Jones and her agent Natasha Kern of the Natasha Kern Agency. The book is a fictionalised account of the Prophet Mohammed's relationship with his child-bride Aisha. US academic Denise Spellberg described it as "very ugly, stupid piece of work".
Rynja said: "I immediately felt that it was imperative to publish it. In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear. As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate. If a novel of quality and skill that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West, but have a genuine interest in, cannot be published here, it would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages. The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time."
Gibson Square's first English language edition of The Jewel of Medina will be published in October 2008. Rynja described the book as a "perfect fit" for the publisher. It has previously published Alexander Litvinenko's bestselling Blowing up Russia (2007), for which a press conference had to be cancelled for safety reasons, shortly after his mysterious assassination; House of Bush House of Saud on terrorist financing, cancelled by its original publisher for fear of the British libel laws; Londonistan, the polemic by Melanie Phillips on Britain's refusal to stem home-grown fanaticism that could find no British publisher.
On the choice of Gibson Square Natasha Kern, Sherry Jones's agent said: "In selecting a publisher we wanted a house that would commit to this novel and to Sherry's further career, as well as an editor and publisher who are passionate about bringing The Jewel of Medina to widest possible group of readers."
Various media outlets have reported today (3rd September) that the book had founder a German publisher willing to publish an English-language version of the book, but the publisher was not named. The book is also scheduled for publication in several countries, including Italy, Spain, Brazil and Hungary. In August, Serbian publisher BeoBook released The Jewel of Medina but then quickly withdrew it from stores after protests from local Islamic leaders who said it insulted Muhammad and his family.