Thursday, September 21, 2006

Banned Books for Dhimmis

With Banned Books week starting on September 23rd, many in bookselling are in full self-congratulatory mode, celebrating their “courage” for standing up to would-be censors. For instance, Booksense, the indy bookseller coalition has their picks of the top 10 banned books. They link to the nobly named American Booksellers Association for Free Expression, which has a list 100 “Banned and Challenged” titles.

Looking at the list, there is one glaring omission. Can there possibly be a more banned book than Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. For years Rushdie has lived in fear of his life due to the Iranian Fatwa that was re-upped in 2005. Verses has been banned and burned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Africa. Many booksellers in America were reluctant to handle it. Yet for Booksense and the ABFFE, Rushdie does not make the cut.

While Booksense’s list is exclusively fiction, ABFFE includes non-fiction as well, but was not compelled to include Oriana Fallaci’s The Force of Reason, or Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan, which certainly qualify as banned and challenged. In truth, the books on the list carry no risk in supporting. Sure, some Christian groups have objected to the occult elements of Harry Potter, but they not going to do anything besides a little protesting. Is there seriously anyone in the country worried about people buying Bruce Coville’s Skull of Truth? If so, they are not particularly organized.

Neither Booksense or ABFFE listed any books that would offend groups, namely radical Islamicists, who would act on their sense of offense. (I will however give literay and historical credit to the Booksense bookseller from Bal Harbour who successfully nominated Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.) However, until they actually advocate on behalf of books under direct attack from Islamic Fascist elements, these bookseller coalitions will just be paying empty lip service to free expression. In truth booksellers should support free expression, loudly and vocally, because they would find many of these books they support have no place in dhimmitude.

(Disclosure: the parent company of my publishing house also owns the company which publishes Verses in tradepaper. The companies are separate corporate entities and my compensation is in no way affected by Verses sales.)