Random House US has said that it has no regrets about pulling out of publication of Sherry Jones’ Islam-inspired romantic novel, The Jewel of Medina, despite the growing controversy about the decision. The news, which broke in the US last week, has led to widespread criticism, and drawn comparisons with The Satanic Verses and the Danish Mohammed cartoons row.
But Stuart Applebaum Random House US spokesman told The Bookseller that the publisher had had “no second thoughts“. “It was a difficult decision: one that we have seldom had to take before and one that we hope not to have to take again,” he said. Applebaum said that the decision had been taken by Gina Centrello, president and publisher of the Random House Publishing Group in the US, after several “credible and unrelated sources” warned that it might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, and could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.
However, the explanation has failed to convince some observers. In a strongly worded piece on the Guardian website, Andrew Franklin, publisher at the UK-based Profile Books, was damning about the decision. “It’s absolutely shocking. They are such cowards,” he said. When asked about his comments, Franklin told The Bookseller: “I just think publishers should uphold the principle of free speech — editorial judgement is very important, but free speech is sacred, without it we should give up and go home.”
In a separate statement, Random House US said: “We stand firmly by our responsibility to support our authors and the free discussion of ideas, even those that may be construed as offensive by some. However, a publisher must weigh that responsibility against others that it also bears, and in this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel.“