Saturday 13 June 2009

Buy this book and support the freedom to offend

Rosie Bell wrote a great post the other week (which I've only just caught up with) about the craven spinelessness of publishers with regard to Does God Hate Women? - the new book on religious misogyny by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom. Apparently Verso were going to publish the book, until they realised it would be critical of Islam, and as Rosie says 'Verso has a soft spot for Islam, which, they think, is a buttress against American imperialism' (see this post). Then Continuum stepped into the breach but, just a week before publication, they too began to get cold feet, having sent the book for review to an 'ecumenicist' specialising in 'Muslim-Christian relations'. Shades here of The Jewel of Medina, not to mention The Satanic Verses, and confirmation of Kenan Malik's recent warning about the 'internalised fatwa'.

As Rosie says, this kind of anticipatory censorship will have its greatest impact, not on western writers like Ophelia and Jeremy who view Islam from the outside, but on 'those who write from within - the liberalisers, the reformers, the feminists, the novelists, the historians. They will write and no one will dare to publish them'.

Does God Hate Women? was due to be published on 4th June and it's available at Amazon, so I assume Continuum recovered their courage at the last minute. You can order the book, and support the freedom to criticise religion, by following the link below.

See Rosie's comment below (and the updated post on her blog) for clarification of what actually happened - i.e. it seems the whole controversy was stirred up by the Sunday Times, looking for a sensational story. It doesn't change the basic point: journalists (like politicians in the Wilders case) now assume that there will be a 'backlash' against any move that 'offends' Muslims, and rent-a-quote fundamentalists are always on hand to oblige, thus creating the very outcry that the media has anticipated.


Rosie Bell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rosie Bell said...

Second time – please delete the first post.

Thanks for the plug, Martin, but I have to update my post.

This has been on Butterflies and Wheels and I’ve just read about it in Private Eye.

No Muslim nor anyone else had said anything about the book. However, Caroline Toomey of The Sunday Times called the publisher, Continuum, and told him that this book might cause offence. The publisher then called in the “ecumenical adviser” who said the book was okay. Then Caroline Toomey spoke to rent-a-gob for reliable foaming, Anjem Choudary, asking for his response, and of course he said that that there could be “a huge backlash”. This controversy was in fact created by the Sunday Times, which could then report it as a controversy. All my fulminating about internalised censorship was off the mark in this instance.

Ophelia Benson said...

It's all faintly comical in a way, and more than faintly sinister in another. (Not least because it just adds to the existing view of 'the Muslim community' as easily offended, and in this case that's most unfair, since 'the Muslim community' hadn't uttered a peep on the subject!)

Needless to say, however, I heartily endorse the sentiment in the title.

:- )