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“All this saddens me. Literature moves civilizations forward, and Islam is no exception.”
—Asra Nomani decries the indefinite postponement of the publication of Sherry Jones’ novel, The Jewel of Medina, which was originally slated for publication on August 12th. The novel — ostensibly the first in a two-book, $100,000 deal with Random House — portrays the life of A’isha, who is typically characterized as the prophet of Islam Muhammad’s favorite wife. The novel charts A’isha's life from her engagement to the Prophet Muhammad at age six up through his death.
Nomani, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, argues that Random House cancelled the novel’s upcoming publication due to fears that Jones’ book would instigate an upheaval similar to that caused by Sir Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Sir Salman’s 1988 novel was condemned as blasphemous, and Iran’s late Ayatollah Khomeini declared a non-binding legal opinion, or fatwa, urging the execution of Sir Salman. Nomani penned an opinion piece this past week in The Wall Street Journal that laid the blame for the book’s cancellation on Denise Spellburg, Associate Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Spellburg served as a consulting historian and was asked to comment on the book by Random House.
Defending herself against accusations that she derailed the publication of The Jewel of Medina, Denise Spellburg wrote in The Wall Street Journal:
As a historian invited to "comment" on the book by its Random House editor at the author's express request, I objected strenuously to the claim that "The Jewel of Medina" was "extensively researched," as stated on the book jacket. As an expert on Aisha's life, I felt it was my professional responsibility to counter this novel's fallacious representation of a very real woman's life. The author and the press brought me into a process, and I used my scholarly expertise to assess the novel. It was in that same professional capacity that I felt it my duty to warn the press of the novel's potential to provoke anger among some Muslims.
Random House neutrally insists that the decision was made "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.”
Readers will have to judge the work for themselves. The only excerpt currently available includes Jones’ portrayal of the consummation of A’isha’s marriage to the Prophet Muhammad: "the pain of consummation soon melted away. Muhammad was so gentle. I hardly felt the scorpion's sting…”
It may be that this feat of fictional imagineering may have almost nothing in common, save for its foray into the politically and religiously sensitive, with Sir Salman’s novel.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
This not only violates the most basic rights of people living with HIV. It also threatens public health, by making it dangerous for anyone to seek information about HIV prevention or treatment.
—Rebecca Schleifer, of Human Rights Watch (HRW), who addresses issues related to HIV and AIDS.
According to HRW, four Egyptian men were recently detained, shackled to hospital beds, and
forcibly tested for HIV; two of the men tested positive. Amnesty International and HRW state that these recent arrests are part of a larger scheme that started last fall, when two men were arrested during a fight in Cairo in October 2007. When one man stated that he was HIV-positive, the men were taken into custody and questioned by the division of the police that investigates questions related to public morality. Both men asserted that they were beaten and forced to undergo rectal examinations that were allegedly intended to prove homosexual behavior. Homosexuality can be indirectly punished in Egypt by charging homosexuals under laws that punish obscenity, prostitution and debauchery.
Abuse and torture by the police is not entirely uncommon in Egypt, an issue which was recently highlighted by camera-phone video footage of police raping a man with a stick.
Just as importantly, treating HIV/AIDS as a crime instead of a severe illness has the potential to dissuade unknown numbers of people from seeking testing and treatment in the country of approximately 75 million.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"My client is the victim of this abhorrent crime. I believe her sentence contravenes the Islamic Sharia law and violates the pertinent international convention…The judicial bodies should have dealt with this girl as the victim rather than the culprit."
—Lawyer Abdel Rahman al-Lahem, speaking about the sentence handed down to his client, who was the victim of a gang rape in Saudi Arabia. She is sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail. From the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, the woman, who is now 19, was gang-raped 14 times a year and a half ago in an eastern province of the kingdom. Despite the brutal rape, the woman was punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes, as she was in the car of an unrelated man when she was raped, and unrelated men and women are forbidden from congregating. When she appealed her original sentence of 90 lashes, her sentence was more than doubled, as the judges accused her of trying to manipulate the media. Seven men were sentenced to prison for the rape, the least sentence being less than one year and the heaviest sentence being five years. The rapists could have received the death penalty.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"My client is the victim of this abhorrent crime. I believe her sentence contravenes the Islamic Sharia law and violates the pertinent international convention… The judicial bodies should have dealt with this girl as the victim rather than the culprit." —Lawyer Abdel Rahman al-Lahem,
speaking about the sentence handed down to his client, who was the victim of a gang rape in Saudi Arabia. She is sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail. From the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, the woman, who is now 19, was gang-raped 14 times a year and a half ago in an eastern province of the kingdom. Despite the brutal rape, the woman was punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes, as she was in the car of an unrelated man when she was raped, and unrelated men and women are forbidden from congregating. When she appealed her original sentence of 90 lashes, her sentence was more than doubled, as the judges accused her of trying to manipulate the media. Seven men were sentenced to prison for the rape, the least sentence being less than one year, and the heaviest sentence being five years. The rapists could have received the death penalty.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
"This soldier probably pushed Mr. Nagai first. This soldier then seemed to shoot him, judging from the angle of his gun."
— Koichi Ito, who previously worked for the special rapid attack squad of the Japanese police, speaking about the death of the Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai. Mr. Nagai was killed in Burma while filming the protests, led by Buddhist monks, on September 27th.
Protests — initially led by Buddhist monks who are now being confined to their monasteries after a series of crackdowns — have been demanding democracy and opposing the military junta for almost two weeks. Although the Burmese authorities claimed that Kenji Nagai, 50, a journalist experienced in working in danger zones and who worked for APF News, had been killed in the crossfire, Japan's Fuji Television released footage in which Mr. Nagai appears to be pushed to the ground by a Burmese soldier and shot in the chest at point blank range. The footage shows Mr. Nagai grasping his camera as he lies dying on the ground as a crowd flees to escape oncoming soldiers.
"God will surf with the devil, if the waves are good…When a surfer sees another surfer with a board, he can't help but say something that brings them together." —Dorian Paskowitz,
86, an avid surfer and retired doctor. Dr. Paskowitz crossed the Israel-Gaza border on Tuesday and donated 12 surfboards to surfers in Gaza. Dr. Paskowitz, who is Jewish, is part of a larger Surfing for Peace movement, which seeks to bring together Israeli and Palestinian surfers. He was moved, he says, when he read about two Gazan surfers who shared one board. The beach in Gaza
is accessible by Palestinians, but the Israeli military monitors the beach and controls Gazan airspace above it and the coastal waters beyond it in the Mediterranean Sea.
The message being sent to Iranian scholars abroad is the same one being given to intellectuals at home: “You are not welcome here anymore.” Those who have had a taste of Iran’s jails and interrogation — including scholars and writers of my generation who work for reformist media in Iran and the British sailors who were recently detained by the government — know what I am talking about. They, too, have endured psychological torture and false charges.
— Camelia Entekhabifard
, author of the recently published Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth — a Memoir of Iran
, writing in today’s New York Times
about reform in Iran.
Entekhabifard refers to the recent crackdown on Iranian scholars, including the case of Haleh Esfandiari. This week, Haleh Esfandiari
, 67, a prominent Iranian-American academic and director of the Middle East program at the Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C., was freed on a bail of $320,000. She was imprisoned in Iran when she returned to the country to visit her 93-year-old mother. She remains accused of spying for the U.S. and for Israel.
Entekhabifard was herself arrested when the judiciary closed down Zan,
or “woman,” the newspaper she worked for in Iran, in 1999. Although she was in the U.S. at the time of the shutdown, she was arrested when she returned to Iran. At the age of 26, she was arrested and held in solitary confinement for three months, during which time she confessed to crimes that she had not committed.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
"When you are actively in your eating disorder, you desperately want someone to understand, and a lot of time you find groups like the pro groups on Facebook that are supportive of you continuing your eating disorder."
—21-year-old American Andrea Schneider, addressing the boom in pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia groups — not to be confused with support groups for those seeking recovery from their condition — on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
Pro Ana Nation, a pro-anorexia MySpace group boasting more than 1,000 members, includes in its group rules that there must be "no people trying to recover, it ruins our motivation." Facebook, another social networking site, has a group called "Get thin or die trying." Both social networking sites have prohibitions against posting harmful content.
"Today, we're not just burying the N-word, we are taking it out of our spirit, we are taking it out of our minds…To bury the N-word, we've got to bury the pimps and the hos and the hustlers. Let's bury all the nonsense that comes with this."
—Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor of Detroit, speaking on Monday at a symbolic funeral for the “N-word,” organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“It was like being buried alive really, removed from the world and occasionally terrifying...It became almost hard to imagine normal life again…The kidnappers seemed very comfortable and very secure in their operation — until a couple of weeks ago when it became clear that Hamas would be in charge of the security situation on their own here, and after that the kidnappers were much more nervous…It was appalling really...not to be able to report on the extraordinary turmoil, the events that I could hear going on, the fighting in the streets around the hideout, for days on end and I just knew the scale of things that were happening. It's the biggest story since I've been in Gaza, but I couldn't utter a word.
— Alan Johnston, the BBC’s Gaza correspondent, who was freed yesterday after being held for 114 days following his kidnapping by the Army of Islam group, speaking about his ordeal. On the day of his release Amnesty International honored Mr. Johnston with their radio award for his reporting on human rights in Gaza, where he has been reporting for the past three years.
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