Thursday, October 23, 2008
A Jewel of a Controvorsy
*sigh* *double sigh*
What is it? What is it that makes it okay to criticize people but god forbid if you happen to criticize a book or a faith? Good lord, much as I love writing, please criticize away, have at it, but leave me the fuck alone. My writing is inanimate. It feels no pain but I do. I can re-write, savagely edit, but there's only one of me. No more drafts. Just one of me. I can be hurt.
Perhaps there is nothing, no one book, no god, that I feel strongly enough about to defend with my life. Nothing that I feel so strongly about that I would kill or threaten to kill someone because of it. Maybe that's why I find the whole fracas about The Jewel of Medina, to be tiresome and as thrilling as a bad case of hives. I mean, seriously, get over it.
For those who have better things to do with their time, here's the condensed version. Sherry Jones wrote a book, called The Jewel of Medina, based on the prophet Mohammad's wife, Aisha. Aisha was betrothed to the prophet at six and married to him at nine (or eleven or thirteen, but young, really, really young regardless), and was known as his favorite wife. Random House signed Jones to a $100,000 two-book deal and all was well with the world. Then...surprise!....as sure as winter follows fall, came the death threats. Duhhh!
Random House, that bastion of free speech and errr...commercialism...dropped the jewel like a nuclear potato. Andrew Franklin, who was editor at Penguin when The Satanic Verses was published decried Random House as cowards. Rushdie, of course, supported Jones and wrote about the perils of censorship. *Yawn*
In September 2008, British publisher Gibson Square took on the challenge of publishing the book. So far they are standing firm on this despite the publisher, Martin Rynja's house being firebombed. Yes, the threats escalated and the guy's house went up in flames.
Not so condensed after all, but there you have it.
Let me say this: I am tired of firebombs and death threats and murders in the name of religion. Debate religion, indulge in some good old-fashioned name calling but leave people's bodies and homes alone. Simply put, if you don't want to read a book, don't read it. Tell others not to read it. Why is it not okay to criticize your religion or fictionalize aspects of it? We live in a multi-textured world and some of us don't want sacronsanctness around us. We choose not read your stuff. You don't have to read ours.
But though I am a die-hard Rushdie fan and liked The Satanic Verses, I find myself waffling at Jones' shall-we-say soft-porn and rather *ahem* loose interpretation of facts. I mean there's fictionalizing and then there's "I floated in his arms to my apartment. He kicked open the door and carried me inside, then placed me on my feet again." This just makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and the latest offering from Harlequin.The Sheikh's Virgin Bride anyone?
What I don't get is the shock that people...writers, publishers, editors...express every time they write or produce something about Islam and some pious Muslim decides he'd like to kill them for it. Really, in this day and age, if you write anything about the prophet without a million PBUHs littering the page and if you bring up even a slightly risque subject matter (even if it is done well), prepare yourself for the onslaught. And don't be coyly shocked when it arrives. Still, you have the right to offend people, yes, even people who find phrases like "I spread a smile thick as hummous across my lips, deeply offensive. Offend me. Offend iconoclastic Muslims. Just don't be shocked when you do.
And that's the point isn't it?
Jones has the right to write any lurid details she wants and a publisher should be able to publish it without having to make that now so tedious decision: your book or your life? They have the right to write and publish. You have the right not to read it and convince others not to. Simple!
So now, let's address you, Mr. or Ms. your-writing-offends-me-so-I-will-kill-you-in-the-name-of-Allah-firebomber:
By all means, castigate the author, read the book and tear it to shreds in reviews, boycott it, use it as a means to educate people. Don't try to prove you're not a narrow-minded, predictable dick-head by being a narrow-minded, predictable, dick-head. Stop with the threats, the fire-bombs, the fiery rhetoric. We get it. The rest of us--sane Muslims and non-Muslims--should not write about anything that vaguely touches anything remotely controvorsial in Islam. Guess what? People think and they read and they write. And part of that process is touching upon taboo subjects and writing about them. So, that's not gonna change. No matter how many Molotov cocktails you shake up.
Perhaps, since you evidently read (if not the books themselves, but at least the synopses put together by some literate brethren) you should channel your fiery thoughts and impulses towards writing reviews of these evil, evil, shaitan books. Go on! Really! You can. It might even get published.
Shock us by NOT firebombing anyone. Shock us by using normal, non-violent channels of dissent. Shock us by not threatening to kill or actually killing someone to show your displeasure. Shock us with your intellect, the power of your pen, the thunder of your prose.
At least then the rest of us can break away from this predictabile cycles of writing and threats every few years. And perhaps, the Ms. Jones of the world won't be laughing all the way to the bank. Get 'em where it really hurts. In the bank. Ignore these books so people like me won't buy it regardless of the author's less than stellar writing. Use your brain not your bomb.
Believe, truly believe, that Allah is all-powerful and is well able to look after His/Her image and doesn't need a pipsqueak human to defend Him/Her. I mean really, who do you think you are? Isn't that rather blasphemous...that you, a puny human can defend God?
I feel a fatwah coming on. Gotta run!