Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Speech Under Attack

Seems like lately when someone talks about a publisher being under attack, it’s about Amazon taking over the publishing world or a small press struggling to stay afloat. This time it’s a real attack – a fire bomb.

This past weekend, the publisher in London who bought the rights to publish a new novel which fictionalized an account of the Prophet Muhammad’s relationship with his child bride came under attack. His home/publishing headquarters was fire bombed.

Martin Rynja had already been warned by the police that he might be a target for fanatics for agreeing to publish The Jewel of Medina.

According to The Guardian,
Rynja, whose company has also published Londonistan by journalist Melanie Phillips and Blowing up Russia by murdered dissident Alexander Litvinenko, appears to have been determined to use Jones's book to take a stand for free speech.
Lest you think this sort of thing couldn’t happen in America, the land of free speech, keep this in mind … the book was written by an American reporter, it was originally bought by Random House Publishing, then canceled, and an American professor at the University of Texas, Denise Spellberg condemned the book as “softcore pornography,” “very ugly, stupid piece of work,” and said, “You can’t play with a sacred history and turn it into softcore pornography.” An editor of a popular Muslim website claimed Spellberg told him the book “made fun of Muslims and their history.”

And now the publisher’s home and office was firebombed. And The Telegraph reports:
Hardline clerics said that further attacks would be "inevitable" if publication of the novel, The Jewel of Medina, goes ahead as planned next month.
The Telegraph also said:
…the radical cleric Anjem Choudhary said the book was an insult to the Prophet Mohammed's honour, something he said would warrant a "death penalty" under Sharia law.


  1. I think this publisher is very brave for publishing. If they don't then the extremists have won.

  2. I think this is an extremely pertinent post given the fact that this is Banned Book Week which I am celebrating on my blog.

  3. I agree Chris.

    Bluestocking -- When I was writing this post, I thought about just what you noted -- this happened at the beginning of Banned Book Week. There's also been some local news about parents wanting certain books banned from the middle school libraries.

  4. Holy Crap! Good Lord, live and let live, people. That's some scary stuff, Helen.

  5. I totally agree Marvin. And we don't need any more scary stuff in the world.

  6. Dear Helen,

    In you posting you wrote:

    "Lest you think this sort of thing couldn’t happen in America, the land of free speech, keep this in mind … the book was written by an American reporter..."

    I'm not quite sure why you would presume that we Americans would think that we were immune to such attacks. Perhaps you have already forgotten 9/11?

    At any rate, I don't think it could ever be said that Americans do not take our freedom and the freedom of others seriously. We were not just given our freedom...we fought for it! And we do not shrink from the task of helping others to fight for their freedom, if they are in need of our assistance. There have been several times when our special friend and ally, Great Britain has fought right beside us, and for that the American people have always been eternally grateful.

    Part of the freedom that we hold so dear is Freedom Of Speech and oftentimes, hand and hand with that, our religious freedoms have also been in jeopardy.

    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states the following:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

    This fight for freedom always seems like such an uphill battle, but make no mistake: it is definitely worth the fight! We are all so sorry to hear about this bombing of the publisher in London, but I feel that there is a lot more to do with this than just a book "insulting the prophet Mohammed's honor." It's a statement from the terrorists that they still think that they are entitled to do whatever they want to do.

    I strongly believe that if the United States pulls out of the war in Iraq, and doesn't finish it so that we can continue on to Afghanistan, then deal with Iran and Russia (sanctions or whatever is necessary) we'll be sending a message to the terrorists that we've given in! That's why I pray that we are able to complete our missions and stick this War out until the very end! Not just for America's sake, but for the sake of the entire Free World! We just can't let the terrorists win!

    God Bless You, Helen!
    Cynde L. Hammond

  7. Hello Cynde Lou.

    Thanks for stopping by Straight From Hel.

    I don't think any American has forgotten 9/11. And I don't think party affliation has anything to do with love of country and upholding our Constitution or freedoms. Being for or against the war, either way, does not make you un-American or anti-freedom.

    But I do think that because we as Americans have such wonderful freedoms, we can become complacent, despite the memories of 9/11, and forget that those rights can be taken away and are being taken away in other countries.

    Although the example I gave was of a Muslim attack on a British publisher, terrorists come in all shapes, colors, religions, and beliefs. The problem is when one's beliefs become so rigid that the person can only see one side and all over viewpoints are wrong and thus evil and thus hold no value.

    I in no way condone terrorist activities. I also in no way condone anyone taking away our right to speak out, as long as others are not hurt.

    This was the case for the British publisher who chose to publish the controversial book. His home and office was attacked. This happened in London, but could happen in the US. It could happen anywhere.


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