Was Random House Right to Drop 'Medina'?


A London publishing house was firebombed for agreeing to publish 'The Jewel of Medina', a controversial novel about Muhammad's wife, which Random House dropped earlier this year because it feared terrorist threats. In hindsight, was Random House in the right? Does this justify censorship of this kind in the future?

Posted by Lauren Keane on October 6, 2008 12:44 PM

Readers’ Responses to Our Question (10)

thepostman Author Profile Page :


We also can only assume that Random House probably made the best decision on its own behalf. Similarly, if the second house thought it prudent and courageous to publish despite the security threat then good for them! I'm sure they were well aware of the dangers of doing so. Muslim or not, aren't readers sensible enough to choose what they want to read?
My point is that in democracies contradictory discourses are (and should always be) ubiquitous. In these societies it is up to consumers to educate themselves and others (peacefully) about those diverse narratives and soft propaganda that infuse daily life. Theoretically, ideological centers should always be in a state of flux with ideological peripheries. Only the disadvantaged or the timid, however, will allow violence to decide for them.
In the history of laws, there is a simple caveat that only fails when ignored: the decision to express any viewpoint should never subject anyone or anything to violent initiation or retaliation...ever. Unfortunately, we can thank the neo-conservative regime for completely doubling back on that philosophy (via the Bush Doctrine) and for persuading even its arch-rival—Islamic fundamentalism—to second guess the universal mandate for peace at all costs.
So, In short, I blame the ideologies, not the little guys who are most pressured to follow them. The culprits here are, not only the users of violence who, in an effort to censor on their own decide to bring guns to a pillow fight; but also the governments who condone these suicidal slumber parties. What the interventionism has done is equivalent to kicking your child's 4th grade bully in the face and calling it justice. I'll call it "extinguishing firebombs with oil."
As long as we have entire cultures excluded from the democratic process, misunderstanding will prevail, and violence will always be a more efficient foreseeable option than gaining access from the socio-economic margins.

yeolds Author Profile Page :

Another topic of little consequence in today's multi-problem world: two wars [both being lost by USA and allies], a world wide financial fiasco [exported under free trade by USA], a smear campaign based on lies in one of the most important elections of the xxi century [yet again in USA], global warming being ignored mostly by USA, Federal deficit heading to 2 trillion dollars for 2009 according to estimates by USA economists [in the USA], hate crime in Canada, Germany etc restricting freedom of speech, peaking oil production, Failure of USA foreign policy around the Caspian Basin, major natural catastrophes in China, USA, etc; Political instability in Bolivia [egged on by USA], EU USA split on most matters; North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine/Israel etc as other problems for USA, and the topic is alleged freedom of speech, where the basic tenet of the largest religion in the world is attacked by essentially agnnostic publishing houses, whose main claim is selling anything for a lousy pound.

I would respectfully suggest that the panel posting they are drinking too much KOOL AID, else they are completely divorced from civilization of the world's and or the USA's very existential problems.

SM33076 Author Profile Page :

Here is the thing... we ban things that we understand to be sensitive to certain people but then use the banner of free speech to aggravate others just because they are different from us plus the fact that we have been conditioned to oppose them at all times.... Case in point,,, it is a crime to deny the Holocaust in certain countries, because it was wrong and millions of innocents were killed.. However it is freedom of speech to criticise Muslim beliefs and sensitivities because we have been taught as a society that they are our traditional enemies from the day of the Crusades... If free speech is to be allowed, then why is the Merchant of Venice forbidden in certain countries?

mohammad_allam Author Profile Page :

In my opinion the House is right to not publish the book on the life of Hajrat Aiesha Razi Allaho Anhoma(the mother of all muslims in the world).The publication of the book will spark the anger of Muslim world.No body can allow any body to write about the own mother in such a term.This episode shows that Moral standard is not reached on such lowest ebb in the west in the name of freedom of speech.they still have some people of morality.What they did is like saving the sancsity of a woman.she is used to be mother of all muslims.
Other hand the House decision is right when we see it in term if development of literature.The aim of the writer here was not the contribution of positive thinking and love,but to earn cheap popularity and creating hatred in the world.The work is not a creative genious type but a controversial type which cannot be accepted as true as it is?
The House decision will help in minimisng the risk of security of world what all ready filled by the so called filthy genious.This will also send strong single that the era of cheap popularity in the name of art and freedom of speech and abusing other has ended.This will also send a single of mutual understanding between the west and world of Islam.
What is the use of this type of literature where on abuse the mother of muslims and muslims abuse the mother of jews and christian?This is not beyond the morality of religion.In my opinion even animals are better than human if we have not have a moral standard.
There is complain from the Islamic world that the enemy of muslims of other faith using the exellent form of human freedom of speech of Europe to bring them in tussle.Now the time has come to check the background of all those people who using this freedom of speech to bring the tussle between two finest civilization of the world and humanity.
The use of word of censorship is not appropiate as the house is not going to hide any fact but just denying the publication of book that is far from established facts.so,why we not see the cause of House but only the author.To publish any thing is right of House and that cannot be force by individual on it to publish any thing in the name of freedom of speech.If we can see the individula rights of the author then why not the rights of the House.If this trend can criticse then any body can force any house for not publishing whim.If this trend will allow then what we will get ,just imagine a world of litearture and knowledge based on abuse and abuse.can we allow this?
Other hand we should allow and even work for the production of creative world.
so in my opinion the House decision is right that will give passes to creative world and positive signal to the world of islam for more cooperation.

AnjuChandel Author Profile Page :

Though there are much more important matters in the world to write about and publish rather than spending time on a "controversial" (?) subject of that of Muhammad's wife, but it is indeed amusing to see the Muslims fly into rage and rampage everytime anything is written about anything even remotely connected to their religion. The basic tenet of all religions should be respect and tolerance for all other religions. After all, this world and the Universe were running absolutely perfectly even before the advent of Islam. So what is this fuss all about???

deflag Author Profile Page :

Please note, I'm busy here. If somebody has a better plan, more power to you. I hope it all works out and I'm sure it will. I've got to get back to packing boxes. I'll check in later and see how you are progressing. If you aren't, you just aren't trying hard enough. Good luck and good night.

deflag Author Profile Page :

There's plenty to write about.
"By all the metrics available to us, then, the current financial crisis easily exceeds the post-9/11 war on terror in economic terms."
9/11 Was Big. This Is Bigger.

The U.S. didn't start the trouble. We are going to have to stop it. The world is going to pay and we are going to keep moving forward. The enemy wants to try to kill us into the next generation. If the global markets crash, our markets will just keep soldiering on. Capitalism is going to seek the highest yields. All the junk gets wiped out and the publishers keep publishing. Perhaps the solution is to reoraganize Wall Street into a publishing center. It's finished as a financial center. That's a big idea for a new New York. If you can build a skyline, what more can you do? The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr. A little more ink and less blood shed, all the better. We had a print shop and now it's a parking lot. I guess somebody figured that was a higher quality use, since they ripped the entire block down to make space for a parking lot. New York City has a strong future, it's just uncertain right now. It's always been that way. Publishing makes the world more certain and more certainty is more security. Keep busy and you won't have time for fear. That's freedom from fear and I have it here on bronze.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page :

Yes, in hindsight Random House was right: I submit Muhammad's wife can wait a little.

This is a matter of setting one's priorities right, you know.

Random House needs to publish most important studies on: 1. the full characterization of the current U.S. financial crisis, 2. the extent and the causes of the socio-economic mess the U.S. is now in, 3. the role played by the American political class and media toward the emergence of those crises, 4. the most likely impact of said crises on the geopolitical standing of the U.S.A., 5. what may be the most fruitful solutions to these crises and why, 6. the needed American leadership in, and contribution to the development of the nascent world order, 7. the future of the U.S.A. in the 21st century.

The more I think of it, the more I am convinced Mohammed's wife can wait, and most Muslims would not mind that she did.

Don't you agree?

moonpenn Author Profile Page :

I was just looking over some papers. The subject of writing, stress and the suicidal nature of the business came up. The publishers are safe and the writers are pushing forward, so what of the middleman. There is the real issue. The editors. I can think of no better people to kill both the publishers profits, while systematically wrecking the writers reputations in the process. With the crisis in world affairs, we need more writers just to keep up for the publishers have demands. It does seem that we do need less of the editors. This should reduce expenses and the newspaper business needs to cut expenses as anybody who has looked at the numbers will agree. Perhaps in the future we will just skip a step and write letters to the publisher and eliminate the middleman. I've read some bad editorials and I've always wondered why the writers do not sign them. To do so would be suicide or at least murder by numbers. I guess we can look forward to more editorials designed to write our way out of the deep hole we've been written into. If they keep writing, at the rate we're going both the publishers and writers will be out of business and out of luck. I'm not sure where that leaves the editors. Perhap in high political circles with the vultures looking for dollars to debt.

moonpenn Author Profile Page :

A publisher should take care of business that promotes security. If it's not worth the price, it's not worth the effort. Because the terrorists are suicidal, it doesn't mean the publishers should be. There will always be censorship. Remember the old Churchill line. In times of war, the truth is so precious she must be protected by a bodyguard of lies. On top of future censorship, there will be a need for future lies. The fate of the future lies in the actions of the publisher. God help us all if it lies in the actions of the terrorists. You have what's going on here and then I have my papers. One thing is going on there and here it's a whole different story. I'm packing my papers up and going in a new direction. When I get there, it will just be more papers and more work unpacking them and new papers. Each must tend to their own garden and papers. Censorship is same as pulling weeds and there are always weeds that need pulled. I compost them and make new topsoil with them, so all you can do with some ideas is keep burying them. The cycle of life just goes on and on. The cycle of death and terror can't compete. That's why people aren't writing about how to kill plants. Maybe somebody will publish a guide to weeds and not censor it. I doubt it would sell or generate much interest. I have two lives and am working on the third. It's a lot of work.

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