When I cruise around the blogosphere, one place I probably spend too much time is over at Oliver Willis’ site. It’s not because I agree with him very often — actually, it’s just the opposite. I have almost never agreed with him, and I’d say that I’m almost a troll over there.
But this is one of those “pigs must be flying” moments — I’m agreeing with him, and publicly proclaiming such. Because for the first time I can remember, he’s actually right on a major issue.
Some time ago, a writer named Sherry Jones started writing a novel, a bit of historical fiction. It is titled “Jewel of Medina,” and is a fictional biography of Aisha, the child bride of Mohammed, the founder of Islam. (Aisha was six when Mohammed married her, but Mo — generous fellow he was — waited until she was nine before he consummated the marriage. We should probably be grateful he isn’t still around; he’d likely end up trying to marry half the Chinese gymnastics team.)
Well, Ms. Jones got a nice little contract from Random House, who got to work on publishing the novel. Right up until one of the Muslim academics (isn’t that an oxymoron?) they gave a preview copy to passed it along to a few other Muslims, and they were quite unhappy about the book’s contents. They made a point of telling Random House just how unhappy they were.
At that point, Random House made a decision that I can’t quite find in my heart to condemn: they chose to release Ms. Jones from her contract and not publish the book.
Their reason was refreshingly honest: they were worried about a violent backlash, afraid for the physical safety of both their employees and Ms. Jones.
Some call it cowardice, and that’s not entirely unfair. But really, who can blame them? There’s only one religion nowadays that has an extensive current body count among those who “defame” it.
Over in Oliver’s comments, his usual crowd of sycophants pooh-poohed Oliver’s concern, citing other religions’ history of similar conduct. They’re right, of course — but that doesn’t make what they say relevant.
Yes, Christianity and Judaism have their own bloody periods, when those who disagreed with the faith were persecuted, even killed. But they outgrew that — it’s been a couple hundred years for the Christians and even longer for the Jews since those days.
No, it’s only Islam that currently kills for such things as heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy. It first became crystal-clear when Salman Rushdie published “The Satanic Verses,” and has only gotten worse since then. I lost count of how many people died in the riots after the publishing of the cartoons of Mohammed. Newsweek published an absurdly-impossible rumor of a Koran being flushed down a toilet, and that triggered more riots and more deaths. Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film maker, made a movie that showed Islam in a less than favorable light, and was murdered in the streets for his effrontery.
There’s a concept in debate called “the heckler’s veto.” It refers to the tactic of silencing one’s opponent not by refuting what they say, but by silencing them through out-shouting them or other tactics. The trend here is that writ large, with militant Islamists using threats of force and violence — threats regularly carried out — to silence their critics. Indeed, they are also using it to not only shut up their critics, but to push their own demands for accomodation.
There are many theories on how to best confront and defeat bullies. One way that almost never works, though, is simply to give them what they want and hope they will be satisfied. In the end, confrontation seems to be the only way that works — but the longer it’s postponed, the higher the price paid.
And that is precisely what we seem to be doing — postponing and appeasing and conceding in the face of militant Islam.
This incident of a single novel is, by itself, trivial. I probably wouldn’t read the book anyway. But it’s just one more example in a long, long, long string of events where militant Islam demands that it be appeased — and gets its way.