'Jewel of Medina' Publisher's Offices Set Afire

Amid all the false media hubub about Sarah Palin being an alleged "book banner" comes much more serious news about the British publisher of "Jewel of Medina," a book about the child-bride of Islamic prophet Mohammed has been set afire:

Three men arrested in north London on suspicion of terrorism continue to be questioned by police. They are suspected of attempting to set fire to a publisher's office in Lonsdale Square, Islington.

The publisher, Gibson House, is due to release a controversial novel about the Prophet Muhammad and his child bride, entitled "The Jewel of the Medina."



The three men were arrested by armed officers from the Metropolitan Police in a planned operation.

The men, aged 40, 22 and 30, were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 and are being held at Paddington Green police station.

Two were arrested outside the property in Lonsdale Square, and the third following an armed vehicle stop near Angel Tube station on Upper Street at 0225 GMT on Saturday.

Will the U.S. media report this event? I'm not exactly holding my breath since the American press showed little interest earlier this year when Random House, originally scheduled to publish the book in the United States went back out of fear of violence.

At that time, not a single American television network reported on this sad moment for free speech.

The contrast between how Western elites are handling "Jewel" and "The Satanic Verses," an earlier work condemned by radical Muslims couldn't be more stark Kenan Malik points out in the Times of London:

In 1989 even the Ayatollah's death sentence could not stop the publication of the novel. Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost a decade, translators and publishers were killed, and bookshops bombed. Yet Penguin never wavered in its commitment to "The Satanic Verses."

Today all it takes for a publisher to run for cover is a letter from an outraged academic. In March, Random House sent galley proofs of The Jewel of Medina to various academics, hoping for endorsements. One of them, Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, condemned the book as “offensive”. Random House immediately dropped it. No other big American publishing house would touch it. Martin Rynja, a fierce advocate of free speech, eventually picked it up in Britain.

What the differing responses to the two novels reveal is how Rushdie's critics lost the battle but won the war. They never prevented the publication of his novel. But the argument at the heart of the anti-Rushdie case - that it is morally unacceptable to cause offence to other cultures - is now widely accepted. In the 20 years between the publication of "The Satanic Verses" and the withdrawal of "The Jewel of Medina," the fatwa has in effect become internalised.

“Self-censorship”, Shabir Akhtar, a British Muslim philosopher, suggested at the height of the Rushdie affair, “is a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held convictions. What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone's - not least every Muslim's - business.” Western liberals have come to agree.

That's a great pity.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013