What does local journalist Sherry Jones have in common with the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten? Both have stirred up anger in the Muslim world through the press and both have stood by their work, with varying results.
In 2005, the Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons dealing with the prophet Muhammad; most of these cartoons had illustrations of Muhammad. Local Muslim groups began to protest, stating that the cartoons were degrading to Muslims. A large portion of Muslims object to images of Muhammad in print, although there are thousands of books around the world that contain pictures of the great prophet.
After several of the Danish cartoons made it into foreign papers, Muslim protests spread around the world, resulting in more than 100 deaths. Protesters also set fire to the Danish Embassies in Syria, Iran and Lebanon.
Over the last few years there have been several episodes of violent Muslim response to the press, but so far Jones has fared well in the heat. Her recently-published novel, “The Jewel of Medina,” deals with the life of A’ishah, one of the wives of the prophet Muhammad.
Though several groups have spoken out against the subject matter, more people have supported Jones’s right to publish her work.
Certainly Jones will have a lot to talk about Wednesday, Jan. 28, when she speaks at EWU in Monroe Hall, room 207, from noon to 1 p.m. She will read excerpts from “The Jewel of Medina,” to augment the discussion of feminism and Islam. In fact, the title of the presentation: “Burqas, Beware: Muhammad was a Feminist,” suggests an hour of interesting perspectives and vivid debate.
In a recent interview, Jones expanded on what she will talk about at EWU, expressing an interest in sharing the surprises she found in her research, including the fact that “Muhammad was an advocate of women’s rights, peace and freedom of speech.”
In addition to shedding light on the real Muhammad, Jones said she’ll break down the current world of Islam and explain how her novel factors into it.
Regarding the controversy surrounding her book, Jones said the heat never rose to a dangerous level. “‘The Jewel of Medina’ cannot legitimately be used as an example of Muslim extremism and its consequences, but rather as an example of the self-censorship we in the United States are willing to undergo – the freedoms we are willing to sacrifice – in the name of fear.”
Jones has been a professional journalist since 1979 and currently works as an Idaho and Montana correspondent for the Bureau of National Affairs in Washington, D.C.