[In the early hours of Saturday] officers from the counter-terrorism command arrested three men under the Terrorism Act 2000 in a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation.Thankfully only a small fire was generated but this is nothing to the excitement certain Muslim clerics will generate with their faithful. According to the Telegraph a leading UK cleric has warned of further attacks:
"The men, aged 40, 22 and 30, were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Two of the men were stopped by armed officers and arrested in the street outside a property in Lonsdale Square, and the third following an armed vehicle stop near Angel tube.
But the radical cleric Anjem Choudhary, who lives in Ilford, east London, said he was "not surprised at all" by the attack and warned of possible further reprisals over the book "It is clearly stipulated in Muslim law that any kind of attack on his honour carries the death penalty," he said. "People should be aware of the consequences they might face when producing material like this. They should know the depth of feeling it might provoke."In the Times Kenan Malik drew the obvious connection to The Satanic Verses:
I've just finished God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens and this attack reminded me of this excerpt related to the infamous Dutch comics:
Today all it takes for a publisher to run for cover is a letter from an outraged academic. In March, Random House sent galley proofs of The Jewel of Medina to various academics, hoping for endorsements. One of them, Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, condemned the book as “offensive”. Random House immediately dropped it. No other big American publishing house would touch it. Martin Rynja, a fierce advocate of free speech, eventually picked it up in Britain.
What the differing responses to the two novels reveal is how Rushdie's critics lost the battle but won the war. They never prevented the publication of his novel. But the argument at the heart of the anti-Rushdie case - that it is morally unacceptable to cause offence to other cultures - is now widely accepted. In the 20 years between the publication of The Satanic Verses and the withdrawal of The Jewel of Medina, the fatwa has in effect become internalised.
Euphemistic noises were made about the need to show 'respect,' but I know quite a number of editors concerned and can only say for a certainty that the chief motive for 'restraint' was simple fear. In other words, a handful of religious bullies and bigmouths could, so to speak, outvote the tradition of free expression in its Western heartland...To the ignoble motive of fear one must add the morally lazy practice of relativism: no group of nonreligious people threatening violence would have been granted such an easy victory, or had their excuses - not that they offered any of their own- made for them.The author Sherry Jones points a finger at Random House and comments "I was disgusted by the inflammatory language Random House used to describe the potential Muslim reaction.”
(Note: This comment was misquoted by the newspaper - see the comments. It wasn't directed at Random House at all).
Isn't it time for right thinking publishers and publisher associations to stand up and voice their collective disgust and willingness to champion the right to publish without intimidation?