Thursday, August 7, 2008

Censorship at Random House - Publisher of The Da Vinci Code doesn't want to offend Muslims

Random House has "postponed indefinitely" publication of The Jewel of Medina, a novel by Sherry Jones, which was due out on August 12.  According to Reuters, the book "traces the life of A'isha from her engagement to Mohammed, when she was six, until the prophet's death."

Though the author claims to have "written respectfully about Islam and Mohammed," the publisher felt that the novel "might be offensive to some in the Muslim community" and pulled it.  Random House also felt that the novel "could incite acts of violence."

Offending Muslims is verboten at Random House . . . but offending Catholics isn't.  Random House, you see, published The Da Vinci Code.  (Doubleday is the named publisher - but that's a division of Random House.)

I'm not Catholic and I don't even play one on television.  I actually enjoyed The Da Vinci Code quite a lot.  I don't really understand the offense taken either - it's just fiction everybody, not history after all - but, again, I'm not Catholic.

A large number of Catholics did find The Da Vinci Code offensive but that didn't keep and shouldn't have kept it from being published.

But the same goes here . . . even if Muslims find The Jewel of Medina offensive, that shouldn't keep it from being published.  There should be no room for such a double standard.

Shame on Random House.


Dameon said...

Well, I am Catholic (practicing, in fact, but not quite to the level of your good friend, reader and co-blogger who posts here.)

I read both The Da Vinci Code and Brown's earlier novel, Angel's and Demons, and thoroughly enjoyed both of them, as did other Catholic family members of mine. I'm also have a personal relationship with Father Michael Witt, professor of Church History at Kenrick Seminary, who spent a good two years lecturing on The Da Vinci Code and debuncting many of the more anti-Catholic aspects of the book.

When taken as the fiction as it was intended, it's a very good work. The issue is with non-Catholics who read the book and cannot tell the fact from fiction. If you do not know what is fact and what is fiction, the book can server to inflame anti-Catholic sentiment.

That being said, for the most part, fundamental Catholics aren't known to target people who speak out against the Church with violence. So from a Random House perspective, a little controversy is good press, and, in fact, The Da Vinci Code probably wouldn't have sold 1/3 as many copies without it.

The potential of an Islamic backlash in response to the proposed book could server to put more fuel on a fire that is already out of control. I can see where a publisher would not want a piece of that.

The article states that the author is free to seek out a new publisher. If they had refused to allow this, they would be guilty of censorship. This is simply a business decision on their part to avoid putting the company in the middle of a potential fireball.

The author sees the book as bridge building. If that is the case, perhaps a test audience of a group of Muslim clerics perhaps would be in order to see how it would be viewed in the general Islamic public.

I have to tell you that this has gained my attention as something that I would be interested in reading to learn more about our religious friends (and I mean that respectfully, not sarcasticly).

St. Louis Conservative said...

Random House certainly has the right to make this business decision and give in to their fears of backlash. In other words, they have the right to censor themselves. But I find it quite irritating that people can't say what they want to anymore and authors can't write what they want to anymore for fear of offending someone - - - unless that someone happens to be Christian, then it's okay.

St. Louis Conservative said...

And, it is probably a bad business decision anyway. I think Salman Rushdie sold a few "offensive" books.