Self Censoring in the face of Religion

The topic of censorship has been popping up in my life recently, mainly in the form of one or two Atheist Nexus users' paranoia and cynicism regarding a few missing posts. Holy cow! Missing posts...Big Brother has come! Pardon my sarcasm, but's awfully silly. Especially when you look at this.

Plans to release a novel about Prophet Muhammad's child bride A'isha have been scrapped by US publishers Random House over fears it could spark violence.

The Jewel of Medina, the debut novel by journalist Sherry Jones, was due to hit shelves on 12 August. Random House said it had been advised the book "might be offensive" to some Muslims, and "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

(Read on...links on blog)

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Comment by Hessenroots on August 15, 2008 at 1:51pm
Late update on this, the Raelians have formally offered to publish the book. No word yet if she's accepted.

- For immediate release -

Contact: Panteha Naghi, 702-513-2387,

Rael offers to publish controversial novel

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 12 - Rael, founder and leader of the worldwide Raelian Movement, has offered to publish a controversial historical novel recently withdrawn by publishing giant Random House.

"The Jewel of Medina," a first novel by U.S. journalist Sherry Jones, is based on the lives of Muhammad and his child bride, A'isha. The book was to have been released later this month, but after advance reviewers reportedly advised caution, publication was halted by the publisher for fear of inciting violence among Muslim extremists.
Upon learning that Jones had signed a termination agreement with Random House, Rael offered to publish the book himself through the Raelian Movement's publishing arm.

"The worst censorship is that which seeks to stop the truth from being told," Rael said. "This book is not a caricature, nor is it libelous. It just conveys exact historical truth. But it seems that when the truth is disturbing to some people, they want a policy of revisionism - in other words, to rewrite history in a politically correct way."

He said the facts Jones included in her novel are straightforward and accurate, and that no one should find them offensive.

"A'isha was married at age six to Muhammad, who was in his 40s, and they had sex starting when she was nine, period," Rael explained. "I support this author and I'm personally offering to publish her book."

"We're in the process of contacting the author about Rael's offer," said Raelian Bishop Brigitte Boisselier, international spokesperson for the Raelian Movement. "The book is said to be a beautiful love story. It even includes the fact that A'isha remained with Muhammad until the moment he died. This worthy book has been censored - not because it shows disrespect for Islam, but out of fear that some people might say it does and then retaliate. This is the worst censorship one can find: preventing people from knowing the truth out of fear of possible non-acceptance. Random House made a cowardly decision. But with Rael offering to publish the book, hopefully people will soon be able to read 'The Jewel of Medina' after all, and to make their own opinions about the life of one of the Prophets sent through the ages by our Creators, the Elohim!"

The Raelian philosophy explains that the Elohim sent a number of Prophets to give recommendations for humanity's survival. Jesus, Mohammet, Buddha are among the most famous of them. Rael is not only the latest but the last Prophet the Elohim will send.
Comment by Hessenroots on August 13, 2008 at 11:04am
In this instance, Random House should forget about turning a profit for the book, organise a cartel with all other major publishing houses and create a temporary front company to publish it so there is nowhere for a finger to point.

From both a social and (significantly less important yet very real) business standpoint that's a damned fine idea.

Assuming other publishers would be willing to break free of the knee-jerk fear response it that would certainly send a message and likely pave the way for other media that might otherwise be questioned because of these types people. Films, funny pages, fiction, non-fiction...whatever it may be. Any group that would threaten with violence or frivolous legal action over a difference of ideals should be treated the same way.

It may not shut down the radicals (it might make it worse in the short term) but at least people would have more outlets for educating themselves about these cultures beyond the worst of the worst pasted on the front page.
Comment by John Evo on August 11, 2008 at 11:57pm
Comment by John Evo on August 11, 2008 at 11:56pm
Here's the link to Another Goddamned Podcast's discussion of the Random House "cave-in" to terrorism and spinelessness in the defense of free speech. And, please, no lectures from anyone on the fact that it's not a free speech issue because it was just a business making a business decision. Bullshit. I bring that up during the podcast.
Comment by Hessenroots on August 11, 2008 at 6:04pm
The author of The Jewel of Medina released a pdf of the prologue if... If the link is dead let me know, I have a copy of the PDF saved for the curious.

The Wall Street Journal also published this little snippet:

"the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion's sting. To be in his arms, skin to skin, was the bliss I had longed for all my life."

It's obviously completely out of the original context of the book but I can see where that and the content of the prologue might make a few people upset in terms of their beliefs. Does that make it right? No, obviously not. Do I agree that they should get all panty-twisted and start falling for heads to roll? No, it's exactly the sort of thing I'm opposed to from any group, be it religious or not. It's sad that this decision had to be made at all but in light of recent insanity, it's a very harsh reality of the world.

Shame on Random House for being spineless about this but they are a business, one in the business of making money and not risking lives when they're fully aware something might be dangerously controversial. They made a business decision based on requested input from experts in the field and culture (which the author is self admittedly not, in either case) and some other seemingly mysterious figures they've not named (I'm curious to know what the other folks asked had to say, if anyone is aware of names). At least one of the historians commentary questioned the historical accuracy and overall quality of research. Noting that, as written, the book would probably piss people off.

The historian in question is a professor in the field of Muslim studies and, from what I've been able to find, a respected one at that. The heat didn't come on until someone blamed her for the "single-handed killing" of this book. Here's her public statement on the matter.

They're not suppressing the book, it's been released from contract so the author can find another publisher. After all this to-do on the net, she most certainly will. The only censorship going is Random House's decision to cut ties with the book and author, which, really doesn't read like censorship to me.

Why more people aren't outraged at the those that might react to the book, as opposed to the publisher, is beyond me. Let's say it was released and 200 people were killed (same as the cartoon rioting fiasco). Random House would end up pulling the book, saying they were sorry and dealing with any legal fallout. All it would prove to do is enforce what we're already aware of: some people are too fucking sensitive, need to lighten up and act like slightly civilized human beings if they want the world to even consider treating them as such.

It's classified as "romantic history" thus suggesting (to me at least) that it's based on or around the lives and events of people whom actually existed. If the people whom actually have an education in the field question the historical value, perhaps that's not the best classification for it. If it is that big of a risk, why they didn't just drop the historical moniker and rename a few characters is beyond me. It's not meant as an educational text, it's for entertainment. Would changing a few names, in the sake of overly-unnecessary religious sensitivity, destroy that entertainment value? Likely not...but as I've never read anything considered "historical romance", perhaps that's the appeal.

Random House, overall, bad call on your part. Spineless and weak in the face of radical theist terrorists but I can't say I totally blame you. Good luck to the author on finding another publisher. You no doubt will and stand to sell a lot more books then you did before this whole episode.
Comment by IsThatLatin on August 10, 2008 at 11:28am
Hahaha...good graphic. Yeah, we're equal opportunity bitchers. Everyone's fair game.
Comment by Hessenroots on August 10, 2008 at 10:53am
Precisely why I tend to just put my opinions in a blog and not the forums. Not the supposed censorship but the people whom derail the threads into nothing more than an internet version of "I know you are but what am I?!". Bang that drum a little louder and someone might pretend to give a damn.

I do, however, appreciate the aesthetic value. It's a perfect example for those that think atheists are all best friends, hanging out, bitching about theists.



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