Novel about Mohammad’s wife published — what comes next?

October 7, 2008

Cover of The Jewel of MedinaThe Jewel of Medina, a novel about the Prophet Mohammad’s child bride Aisha already linked to an arson attack in London, was rushed into U.S. bookstores on Monday in a bid to head off any other violence. Author Sherry Jones says it’s a respectful account of Aisha’s life but Random House baulked at publishing it after being warned it could offend Muslims and provoke violence from a “small, radical segment”.

Publisher Eric Kampmann, president of the Beaufort Books company whose London office was firebombed, told Reuters that the surprise measure would help change the discussion about the book. “We felt that, given what was happening, it was better for everybody… to let the conversation switch from a conversation about terrorists and fearful publishers to a conversation about the merits of the book itself,” he said.

Comments from Muslims in Britain about The Jewel of Medina have been mixed, with some approving a vigorous protest and others saying their views have evolved since the Rushdie affair. Comments on blogs since the novel went out to U.S. bookshops range from those criticising it as a “flawed jewel”, those (like Ayaan Hirsi Ali) cheering the publisher for not caving in and those urging Muslims not to be provoked even by this “distorted picture of Aisha”. Some, citing a review saying it’s just a “second-rate bodice ripper-style romance”, wonder what the fuss is all about.

People who protest violently against a book usually haven’t read it and have no intention of doing so. This was the case with Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses — and has been with many other books that had nothing to do with Islam. So is Kampmann’s strategy a smart move or a naive attempt to get hotheads to read first and shout later?


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Radical Muslims never read books other than those written by twisted reactionary minded Mullahs who alienate and thrive on illiteracy of their followers. Moderate Muslims live in fear of retribution by hysterical religious hooligans. And liberal Muslims have mostly switched sides and joined others by trying to protect themselves against this 1400 years old vicious animal. Maybe opening cultural and educational battlefields is the new solution, but I doubt any old rhetorical Muslim will ever morph back to human form.

Posted by I’ve been there | Report as abusive

Well not all Muslims are alike, every religion has it’s extremists that does not make that religion specifically bad.

A lot of Muslims are open to read different things to see the different points of view, disagreeing with a point or even a book is not reserved for Muslims.. A number of Christians have objected over The Davinci’s Code too, And the Internet has lists of banned books written by non-Muslims.

Posted by DeSeRt RoSe | Report as abusive

It is a general case when there’s no confidential environment between people of different thoughts, any reference to the other side’s beliefs, first of all will be regarded as an attempt to tease or attack them. How much the world know about Islam? and how they look at Islam as a religion in western societies? I think this is the reason why Muslim’s reactions are violent in some cases. They do not trust to the other side.
Just like people who don’t want to listen to the teachings of Islam as it is, there’s Muslim’s who don’t want to read the books and notes others have written about them.

Posted by Mahdi | Report as abusive

The reference to Islam as a ‘1400 year old animal’ by one of the contributors is uncalled for and hurtful. If the contributor acknowledges that there are moderate Muslims, then he or she should not disrespect their faith in this way.
Most people, Muslims included, would see no big deal about the writing of this book. On the contrary, this shows that an outsider can be interested in Muslim culture and history. After all, similar books have been written in Arabic on the subject. If there are inaccuracies or offending editorials to Muslims, and these are not likely to be deliberate, it is not unheard of and of course would be subject to correction. This a view shared by a great majority of Muslims. The fact that no great controversy commotion has arisen with its publication proves that.

Posted by bill | Report as abusive

This Moslem, a descendant of the Prophet, is not going to get worked up in any manner or form over this book. As a work of fiction, it will be always be open to debate.
I refuse to get up in arms over the heated arguments, pro or con. For most of the arguments are based upon opinions of people who did not read it. I for one, intend to keep my blood pressure down.

Best wishes.

Posted by SRK | Report as abusive

Well, muslim authors may maintain similar kind respect, dig more history, go beyond 1400 years and tell the world, how old was mother of Jesus Christ when she got pregnant, if jesus had a human father or God was his father or he was born without a father, also, if he died, crucified or picked-up alive….

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[…] Ok. It’s published now what? […]

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[…] And Tom Heneghan asks, “Now what?”. […]

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When people start talking about disrespecting a religion, I always wonder where they draw the line. Would they respect the beliefs of someone who whips up a cauldron of potion every Friday night containing eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog? I rather doubt it. Would they respect my beliefs if I wore a helmet with horns in it and worshipped Odin? I doubt that too. “The thing is,” they would say, “those beliefs are codswallop.” Well, I happen to think that all religion is codswallop. I see no difference between the myth of Odin and the myth of this Allah geezer.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Matthew –
That is because you have not studied Islam at all. Do you think knowledge and wisdom just falls from the sky like rain? No. Try reading a book about Islam. Better still, why don’t you speak to some Muslims and ask your questions. I’m sure they will be happy to help you understand. You will then be in a better position to see the difference between the Islam, the “myth or Odin”, as you put it, and everything else.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive


Posted by jimmi cm | Report as abusive

I am shocked at the liberal consensus against publication of the book and the conspiracy to defame author Sherry Jones using diatribes like “untalented writer” (NYT-who else?) and that the book is “soft porn” (the university professor who first ratted on the book). This is intellectual gangsterism of the worst kind. Why wasn’t the same yardstick (“disrespecting religion”) used when Hindu gods and godesses were shown in pornographic poses by a Muslim painter called Maqbool Fida Hussain? All right, let’s have it then. The guy with the gun is always right.

Posted by joy | Report as abusive

Whatever one may think of this book, all praise to the publishers for daring to respond to terrorist blackmail by publishing it. It’s a pity other British publishers are so cowardly. There is another solution: publish on the dark web –through Tor. This is the solution adopted by another writer of another novel about Mohammad the Prophet (Peace be unto him) which seeks to set the record straight about what his teachings were about women and sex. “The Daughters of Fatima” is based on a modern, liberated woman, Gemma Thompson, who founded a string of “Shedonist” clubs for women to re-discover erotic pleasure: a Fatwa was placed on her when an underground Shedonist club was discovered in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. Rather than succumb, however, Gemma used the Fatwa to try to rescue a girl from the fundamentalists who had taken over the Swat valley…
This novel was praised by all who read it as beautifully and powerfully written: it is now appearing in serial form, chapter by chapter on

Posted by shedonists | Report as abusive