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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Aisha: on . . . off . . . on again

An American publisher has now published The Jewel of Medina ahead of schedule after a British publisher’s home was fire-bombed by what are thought to be Islamic extremists who don’t like the idea of freedom of expression.

The BBC tells us that Beaufort Books will now publish the Sherry Jones historical novel:

Beaufort Books said it was publishing the novel ahead of schedule so it could be assessed on its merits as literature rather than the potential offence it could cause to Muslims.

Beaufort’s president, Eric Kampmann, said: “We felt that [. . .] 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.”

However, Sherry Jones herself (pictured above) doesn’t come well out of an assessment by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Daily Beast.

Ali writes:

Ms Jones does not question the morality of the prophet. She does not judge him in a negative way. There is no hidden meaning between-the-lines that will inspire young Muslim female readers to question their faith or the inconveniences of marrying against one’s will, nor of sharing your husband with a dozen other women, nor even why it is wrong to be married off as a child to a man four times your age. In fact, Ms Jones makes the same lame excuses that Muslims make to condone the prophet’s behavior.

From a moral perspective, I can find nothing in this poorly written book that deviates from the standard Islamic teachings. The only character in Ms Jones’s book that is close to an antagonist is Umar ibn Khattab, a warrior Khalif and a hero in the Sunni version of Islam, mainly because of his dramatic conversion to Islam and his conquests for the Khalifate. However, beyond his hot temper and his determination to put women in their place – in the Arab-Islamic mind both traits are admirable – the author does not succeed in making him into a bad character.

Ali also criticised Jones for not condemning Mohammed for having sex with a nine-year-old girl. “From my perspective, Ms Jones’s novel does not come close toward helping Muslim women imagine that there is a reality beyond subjugation,” writes Ali.


Hat tip: MediaWatchWatch and New Humanist blog.

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