Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Jewel of Medina

That's the name of a new book coming out any time now. It was originally going to be published in England first, but the publisher's office was attacked. So what's the big deal? Well, this is the story of A'isha, the Prophet Muhammad's favorite wife, who was only about 9 years old when they were married. This is not a scholarly work, it is a novel, and I've heard it referred to as "historical fiction." The big problem is that in the book, Muhammad consummates the marriage immediately.

Now, is that historically accurate? I don't know. I will say that from a historical viewpoint, there were many cultures and societies that arranged marriages with underage children, and usually the marriage was not consummated until the child was of age. This was still going on in Egypt in the twentieth century. I will also say, that in some cultures and societies a girl became a woman once she started menstruating, which could happen at a young age. Remember the young girl in Yemen?

My personal opinion is that the marriage was probably not consummated until A'isha was considered to be the proper age. I don't know what that age might have been at that time. But the marriage itself has been used as an attack against Islam. Right after 9-11, the Southern Baptist Convention referred to Muhammad as a child molester, because of A'isha's age. I guess it's too much to expect that they've ever read any historical documents or marriage records.

So, the big deal is that in this book Muhammad has sex with a 9-year-old girl. Many people are going to offended by that. And some are going to believe it's the truth, even if it's not. Just look what happened with the Da Vinci Code. Now, I'm not advocating censorship; I believe in Freedom of Speech. But as I've said before, just because you can say something doesn't mean that you should. But this is bound to set off massive protests in the Muslim world, and anyone writing about Islam in this day and age ought to be aware of that.

So I really have to wonder about the author's motivation. Why would you intentionally write something that might even set off attempts on your life? Remember Salman Rushdie? How many years was he in hiding? (Or is he still in hiding? I can't keep track.) So we have another wave of Islamic protests set to go off with the release of this book. [If they don't protest at first, they will once Westerners who read the book start bashing the Prophet Muhammad.] If I was a conspiracy nut I'd say it was a plot by the Neo-Conservatives to increase Islamophobia in America and sway the election. But I'm not that nutty.

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