U.S. publishing company Random House will not publish a planned novel by Sherry Jones, called The Jewel of Medina, that was expected to hit stores on August 12th. The Islamically-themed novel explores Aisha, the child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame a number of obstacles to reach her potential as a revered woman and leader in Islam. Random House said that it has been advised that the fictional novel, might be offensive to some Muslims, and could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment. The Jewel of Medina traces the life of Aisha, who is often cited to have been Muhammad’s favorite wife, and is believed to have been engaged to the prophet from the age of six. Muslim writer and feminist Asra Nomani published a column in the Wall Street Journal, saying that she was saddened by the book’s scrapping, saying that the move is a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world. Others, including Denise Spellberg, a professor from the University of Texas in Austin, said that the book was ugly, stupid, and was soft core pornography. The decision to indefinitely delay the novel’s release was made in consideration for the safety of the author, employees of the publisher, booksellers, and others involved in the distribution or sale of the novel.
Barack Obama’s national Muslim outreach coordinator resigned amid a controversy over his connections to man whom the Justice Department named as a co-conspirator in the racketeering trial of several alleged Hamas fundraisers. Mazen Asbahi joined Obama’s campaign just last week, and resigned in a letter to the campaign less than two weeks later, saying that he was stepping down to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change. Asbahi’s move came after the Wall Street Journal inquired about his relationship with Jamal Said, who served on a subsidiary board of the North American Islamic Trust with Asbahi in 2000, and was named in an investigation of alleged Hamas fundraisers. Asbahi himself, however, is not considered to have been part of the fundraising activities. Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter said that Asbahi is a victim of internet rumors, and a example of Islamophobia in politics.
Egypt has ordered the seizure of a special edition of the German news magazine Der Spiegel after it was deemed to be insulting to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, newspapers reported on Wednesday. Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi took the decision “to defend Islamic values and confront attempts to damage the prophet, the Muslim religion and religion in general,” the state-run daily Al-Gomhuriya said. It reported Fiqi as saying Egypt would not allow any publication damaging to monotheistic religions “because that is nothing to do with the freedom of information that the West talks about”. Al-Gomhuriya said the March 25 special issue of Der Spiegel contends that Islam is a Christian offshoot and contains several images and comments insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, citing a “German orientalist” according to whom Islam incites violence and terrorism. In February, Egypt banned the sale of four international newspapers — Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Britain’s The Observer and the US Wall Street Journal — for publishing cartoons of the prophet. Der Spiegel was banned by the Egyptian government. It is not the regular Spiegel, but a Spiegel Special on Islam in Germany. Actually, I proof-read some of the articles (for example the interview with the German intelligence chief, and the article on the history of contacts between Germans and Muslims).