Canceled Muhammad novel finds a new publisher

Historical novel about prophet, his child bride was pulled by Random House

Posted: Friday, September 05, 2008

BERLIN - A historical novel about the prophet Muhammad and his child bride that was pulled by Random House over concerns it would anger Muslims will be printed by another German publisher, the author said in an interview released Wednesday.

James Snook / The Associated Press
James Snook / The Associated Press

Germany's Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper said Sherry Jones told them her debut novel "The Jewel of Medina" will be published in October in English. The American author declined to identify the publisher or give other details, but dismissed concerns it could provoke violence, the newspaper reported.

"To claim that Muslims will answer my book with violence is pure nonsense," Jones said. "Anyone who reads the book will see that it honors the prophet and his favorite wife."

Random House Publishing Group, which is owned by German media company Bertelsmann AG, has acknowledged pulling the novel about Muhammad and his third wife, Aisha.

The publisher, which had planned to release the book last month, said in a statement at the time that "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."

The book is already scheduled for publication in several countries, including Italy, Spain, Brazil and Hungary. In August, Serbian publisher BeoBook released "The Jewel of Medina" but then quickly withdrew it from stores after protests from local Islamic leaders who said it insulted Muhammad and his family.

The publisher expressed its "apology and regret" to the Islamic community in a statement published on the company Web site. Jones' agent, Natasha Kern, says she has been working on resolving the situation in Serbia and remains hopeful it will be published there.

Following the Random House decision, Salman Rushdie, whose "The Satanic Verses" led to a death decree in 1989 from Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that forced the author to live under police protection for years, said the publisher had allowed itself to be intimidated.

"I am very disappointed to hear that my publishers, Random House, have canceled another author's novel, apparently because of their concerns about possible Islamic reprisals," Rushdie said in an e-mail sent last month to The Associated Press. "This is censorship by fear, and it sets a very bad precedent indeed."

Jones was quoted by the Leipziger Volkszeitung as saying that the fact "that one of the biggest publishing houses in the world refuses to publish a book because of warnings is a sobering comment on the state of freedom of speech in the USA."

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