Censorship net closes in

Censorship net closes in August 7, 2008

WHAT a dismal month it’s been for freedom of expression … and we’re only seven days into August.
First, we had that exceedingly foolish apology from the South Wales Echo to the Clown Prince of British evangelism, the maggot bigot Stephen “Birdshit” Green. (You can sign our petition against the apology here.)
Then comes the news that publishers Random House have pulled the plug on a Sherry Jones’ novel The Jewel of Medina, a racy piece of historic fiction centred on the love life of Prophet Mohammed, fearing that it would turn into another Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie.
According to the Wall Street Journal:

Thomas Perry, deputy publisher at Random House Publishing Group, said that it ‘disturbs us that we feel we cannot publish it right now’. He said that after sending out advance copies of the novel, the company received ‘from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment’.

One of those “credible sources” is Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas in Austin.
Ms Spellberg got her panties in a right royal twist over the manuscript, and went wailing to Shahed Amanullah – a guest lecturer in Ms Spellberg’s classes and the editor of a popular Muslim website. She clams the novel:

Made fun of Muslims and their history … It is very ugly, stupid piece of work … a declaration of war … explosive stuff … a national security issue.

Spellberg also asked Amanullah to warn Muslims about the book. Random House immediately took fright and cancelled the book.
Ophelia Benson, over at Butterflies and Wheels, is incandescent with rage:

Denise Spellberg, self-appointed censor and destroyer of books: you should be embarrassed at yourself. You should go into a very different line of work, right away – you should not be allowed anywhere near students, and you should never get another book or article published.

Equally outraged is Andy Armitage, at the PTT, who observes:

What we have allowed into our world now is something very dark, very sinister, something that will, if we’re not very careful, soon have us culturally hogtied, appealing – before we dare to publish a word – to some bloody fatwa committee of bearded, grizzled old men who wouldn’t know a good piece of fiction if they ever reached far enough into the real world to take it down off the shelf.

It’s not only Islamic scholars who are building a bulwark against free expression – it’s rabbinical ones too.
Today we learned that Amazon has banned Michael A Hoffman’s Judaism Discovered: A Study of the Anti-Biblical Religion of Racism, Self-Worship, Superstition and Deceit, which was due to be officially released on August 10. The ban will stay in place, Amazon has indicated, “until rabbinic objections are lifted”.
Hoffman, according to Wikipedia:

Doubts that execution gas chambers existed in the Nazi camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, and claims that the term ‘Holocaust’ is Orwellian Newspeak imposed beginning circa 1978 in order to confuse and distract from debates about the numbers of Jewish deaths that can be attributed to Nazis. Hoffman doubts that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and asserts that most of the Jewish deaths in WWII were from typhus, malnutrition and shootings perpetrated by some units of the SS on the Eastern front.

Say what you like about Hoffman, but the fact remains that Amazon appears to have been the victim of rabbinical bullying, and that simply cannot be tolerated.

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  • tony ewing

    I hate to say this but in order to have the freedom that allows ‘The Jewel of Medina’ to be published, it also must allow Hoffman’s ‘Judaism Discovered’ to be published, no matter how repugnant that may be. Otherwise we are no better that the religious twats that would silence us all.

  • When people argue for limits on free speech, it’s usually to prevent incitement. But what’s happening here is the opposite. The religious extremists will use the books to incite violence… and for that reason we should ban the books! That really is intolerable.
    With that caveat, I can sympathise with Random House. At least they condemn the religious psychos, whilst admitting that it’s not an issue they’re willing to die for (and who can blame them). Amazon, on the other hand, appears to be on the side of the fruitcakes.