"The Jewel of Medina" is still controversial, said Tom Heneghan in Reuters, but this week the debate over the romance about the Prophet Mohammed's wife A'isha shifted from its Muslim protesters to its literary merits. Beaufort Books rushed to publish "The Jewel of Medina" in the U.S. this week after the British publisher's London office was firebombed.
The author, Sherry Jones, apparently "wanted to write a feminist text," said Laurel Maury in the Los Angeles Times, "sort of Islam 101 for the post ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer' generation." From a religious point of view, it's hard to say whether the book was "worth the anguish it's caused," but as literature it's "pleasant-enough mediocrity" stained by purple prose.
Whatever the merits of the book, said Ron Hogan in mediabistro.com, the controversy is not Jones' fault. Now that the rest of us have had a chance to actually read it, it's clear that Islamic studies professor Denise Spellberg, who ignited protests by calling the galleys "soft-core pornography," owes Jones an apology.
So does Random House, said David Goodhart in The Washington Post online. It's "timorous decidion" to scrap its release of the book, citing security concerns, made violence "more likely." Random House should remember that it's "not just in the business to make money but to defend certain principles of the open society."