To Ban a Book: The Fuss Over "Jewel of Medina"
My colleague, Campus Watch director Winfield Myers, has an article at Frontpage Magazine today examining the unnecessary controversy surrounding The Jewel of Medina, thanks in large part to University of Texas Middle East studies professor Denise Spellberg. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Political correctness is at its most parodic precisely when it seems beyond parody. The latest bit of history to support this adage is the Middle East studies establishment's reception of Sherry Jones's novel The Jewel of Medina (Jewel), a life of Aisha, the favorite wife of Muhammad. As Robert Spencer writes in his review of Jewel for the Winter 2009 issue of the Middle East Quarterly, Jones set out to "be a bridge-builder" who chose her historical sources selectively to ensure that her work would present a flattering picture of her subjects.Continue reading "To Ban a Book"
Enter Denise Spellberg, who teaches Islamic history at the University of Texas. She heard of Jewel pre-publication because Jones, in her naiveté, asked her then-publisher Ballantine, an imprint of Random House, to obtain an endorsement from Spellberg to splay across the back of the dust jacket. Spellberg is author of Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of Aisha bint Abi Bakr, which Jones cites as one of her sources. She is, in addition, a typical practitioner of the blatant bias toward things Muslim and, more particularly, Arab that has become almost ubiquitous among practitioners of Middle East studies. Put simply but accurately, this means that things Arab/Muslim = good; things American/Western = bad. Under this regime, dispassionate, fair-minded research that takes a critical look at the Middle East is more likely to be rewarded with professional ostracism than advancement.