Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Londonistan" and Censorship

Several months ago, there was a brief mini-scandal over the perceived reluctance of the Brooklyn Public Library to purchase the book Londonistan. Written by outspoken British commentator Melanie Phillips, Londonistan discusses the disturbing growth of radical Islamist sentiments among Britain's Muslim community, and the unwillingness of much of UK society to confront this phenomenon.

Considering the prevailing political climate in our profession, I certainly would not be surprised if the librarian in Brooklyn was less than enthusiastic about ordering Londonistan. However, as Theodore Dalrymple points out, the difficulties involved in getting the book published are the real source of concern:

You might have thought such a book, written in clear English, would be snapped up by British publishers, especially as it has sold well in the United States. But it was turned down by all the major publishers in Britain, and eventually taken only by a very tiny house (Gibson Square Books, Ltd.). Its widespread rejections cannot be explained on narrow commercial grounds, or on purely literary ones: 200,000 books per year are published in Great Britain, not all of them by any means imperishable literary masterpieces or bestsellers. The only reasons that withstand scrutiny are precisely the ones that the author offers for the enfeebled stupidity of British government policy. In other words, we are dealing with a deep cultural problem, not just a problem of the wrong personnel being in charge. Mr. Blair, in all his blustering faintheartedness, is unfortunately a true representative of his people.

Unfortunately, the case of Londonistan is not an isolated event. On October 4th, the Jewish Press reported another such instance of censorship:

Last week a book publisher told Nancy Kobrin, a psychoanalyst and lecturer on counter-terrorism, that they were withdrawing the publication of her book, "The Sheikh's New Clothes," because they were afraid of fundamentalist repercussions, according to Kobrin.

The book, subtitled "The Naked Truth about Islamic Suicide Terrorism," tackles the psychology of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists and tries to understand the roots of their radical behavior.

It appears that Ms. Kobrin's book will be brought out by another publisher. However, the climate of fear created by the violent Islamist campaign against free expression is now clearly affecting the publishing industry. This should be a source of deep concern for anyone who supports intellectual freedom.


Blogger FreadomistaW said...

Dear Arch,

You usually pick the precise word needed to convey your opinion, as well as to describe the facts. I must say, however, that the Brooklyn flap was not one of perception, as your blog implies.

Rather, there was an initial REFUSAL, by the original col. devel. dude in Brooklyn, to buy the book, because he said it was "potentially incendiary."

The smart folks at BPL did some quick damage control and made the appropriate decision to overide the initial poor choice.

Still, your central point is far more critical than one, unprofessional librarian in Brooklyn -- the fact that publishers are being intimidated by the climate of Jihadi terror is a scandal....A scandal, by the way, in which the ALA, and certain vocal Council members, have remained tellingly quiet...

6:48 PM  

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