Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Jewel of Medina: Worth the Controversy?

I recently stumbled across the blog of very cool Muslim commentator Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, who gives her fiercely independent (and often hilariously snarky) opinion on her religion and its place in the world. In her latest post she takes on The Jewel of the Medina, that supposedly "controversial and banned" novel about Aisha, Muhammad's child bride. While I didn't need a Muslim to tell me it's a cheesy Orientalist romance novel (the excerpt on the book's official website does that quite well enough) it was interesting to read about all of its historical inventions and errors.

To Shelina's credit, she doesn't call for the book to be banned. Interestingly, Random House got cold feet and pulled the plug without having been threatened, as is made clear in a Wall Street Journal article by old friend Asra Nomani. Random House should have shown more guts and published it, or shown more taste and rejected it when it first appeared in their slush pile. Since then, a few radical clerics have expressed their usual ire, and three men have been arrested for a firebombing allegedly linked to the British edition, but I doubt they actually read it.

And no, I haven't read the whole thing either. The turgid prose in the excerpt was a sufficient waste of my time, thank you very much.

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