In a moment reminiscent of reactions against Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and Jyllands-Posten's 12 political cartoons satirizing Islamic extremism, British publisher Martin Rynja received a firebomb earlier this week for plans to publish The Jewel of Medina, a fictional account of the early life of Muhammad's first wife, A'isha. Random House was scheduled to be the book's American publisher but backed out over threats of violence and Beaufort Books has since stepped up to the plate. Three men were charged with conspiracy to commit arson and damage public property on Thursday. Rynja is uninjured, according to the book's publicist, and is not deterred from releasing the book this month. There must be, he says, "open access to literary works, regardless of fear."
Although Banned Book Week is American, anyone can see how apropo this event is. It's good to know that, though some publishers have lost their spine and bend to an insidious source of censorship, there are still a few champions of the freedom of expression. Random House ought to be ashamed of themselves. They are an embarrassment to this country that purportedly loves freedom of expression. Unfortunately, it seems Rynja and his American colleagues at Beaufort Books are knights of a dwindling order.