The author of the novel about Mohammed's prepubescent bed partner should be compensated after Random House pulled it, says a lawyer who acted for Salman Rushdie over his The Satanic Verses.
Geoffrey Robertson QC was talking about The Jewel of Medina, publication of which was suspended earlier this month. Author Sherry Jones shold get "substantial compensation".
"We can't be overcritical of American publishers for cowering under terrorist threats," Robertson tells the Guardian. "After all, the Guardian, like every other British newspaper, lacked the gumption to publish the Danish cartoons [of Mohammed]. But all who care about free speech have a duty to make this sort of censorship counterproductive. Random House should pay this author substantial compensation, and the book should be placed on a website so everyone can read it."
Random House says: "We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book."
The publisher can and should pay for its own security. Others will decide whether they wish to take risks, so the company has no responsibility for them. If a bookseller decides not to stock it, that's up to the bookseller, and it sounds like appeasing crap to say Random House has everyone's interests at heart, and not just its own. As for the author, she doesn't believe there's any risk involved.
"Frankly I'm more afraid of global warming than of terrorist attacks," she says. "I did expect my book would be controversial, just because I'm a pink woman writing about a culture that was not my own and a religion that is not my own . . . [but] my aim was not to provoke: it was to portray the difficulty of being a woman in that era, and to portray this wonderful heroine who overcame obstacles to become a prominent figure in Islam."
Whether there would be a threat or not, do we continue to grovel and consult a fatwa committee before committing a word to paper if it concerns their hateful religion, or do we strive for freedom of expression? What are our governments and security services there for if not to protect those rights? If Islam had not been allowed to get such a hold on such matters in the West, such things might now not be causing us so much trouble, but it's revered within the relativist agenda of the politically correct – and that is the way to total censorship.