Muslim review of “Jewel of Medina”
This is a review by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, the author of the Spirit21 blog (you can also find the review there). She concludes that the book is a tacky bit of historical romantic fiction - and not very historical at that, playing with the details to sex up the book, casually throwing in concepts from South Asia and Turkey which appeared later.
Despite accusing others of simplistic reasoning, unfortunately, it is these authors themselves who employ a very simplistic type of reasoning and forget something that every little boy learns in the playground: when you let someone bully you and insult you, it won’t stop until you stand up and do something about it.
Trivial as this objection may be, the author of one of the articles he cited never was a little boy (AnonyMouse at Muslim Matters). However, I do feel we are running out of options when it comes to responding to gratuitous insults to the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam); we had a big demonstration against the Danish cartoons in February 2006, and it was a very dignified affair with the crazies having shouted their piece outside the Danish embassy (twice) a couple of weeks before, and admittedly the cartoons have not been published in the media in the UK, but they were published in papers throughout Europe. Muslim protests did not stop The Satanic Verses from remaining available, nor, it seems, will they stop this book appearing.
It’s true that Sikhs and Hindus have managed to stop plays and art exhibitions, but that is a bit different - with a book, your audience does not have to be right there when the book is produced. These days, you can run a small publishing house out of one office, and keep every book you have ever published on one £50 hard drive, and back them up on a couple more. When some guys tried to burn down the offices of Gibson Square, the publishers of The Jewel of Medina in the UK, not only did they get arrested, but they did not even get close to destroying the business and stopping the publication. They will have had back-ups. They will have had insurance. Even if they had killed the entire staff, it will have been republished quickly out of sympathy, possibly by people who would not otherwise have done so, but chose to in defence of free speech.
Muslims have, in nearly twenty years since the Rushdie affair, not managed to convince many people outside the Muslim community that they have any obligation to refrain from insulting Islam, or any other religion, when the country’s established churches are fair game. I think that the reaction to The Jewel of Medina should be confined to answering it in the word, rather than with public demonstrations (can we fill Trafalgar Square every time some idiot insults the Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam?), let alone anything violent. This is not to say we should ignore it, but that we should show some wisdom and dignity, because an over-reaction now could cost us dear in the future, when we need to fight dangerous hate-mongering against presently living Muslims.
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