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News – Censorship by fear

October 2008

Censorship by fear


Plans by Random House in the USA to publish a new novel about the Prophet Muhammad and his child bride have been shelved for fear of offending Muslims. The Jewel of Medina, by Sherry Jones, provides an imaginary insight into the life of A’isha sometimes referred to as Muhammad’s favourite wife, from her engagement at the age of six until the prophet’s death.

     Random House said it cancelled publication after receiving advice that the book ‘could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment’. The company believed its actions were ‘for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel’.

     However, despite what has been called ‘censorship by fear’, Gibson Square, a small independent UK publisher, has agreed to publish the title. In a statement the company said there must be ‘open access to literary works, regardless of fear’.

     In 1988 a novel by Salman Rushdie called Satanic Verses prompted Iran’s then spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa ordering the author’s execution and prompting riots on the streets of British cities.


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