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Controversial book set for release tomorrow

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Ironically, it was Sherry Jones's hope that her book would contribute to global peace. So far, it has turned out quite to the contrary.

Jones, who lives in Spokane, Wash., and was once a newspaper reporter in Montana, is the author of "The Jewel of Medina," a debut novel based on the life of Aisha, the prophet Muhammad’s youngest and favorite wife.

Jones has said in interviews that she began writing "The Jewel of Medina" in 2002 as her own “personal response” to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “As I read – books by western scholars, Islamic scholars, religious clerics, ancient Arabic poetry – what I gained from my reading was an impression of Islam being a religion of, primarily, peace,” she told London's TimesOnline. Jone also said that "she came to respect Muhammad as a leader who introduced women’s rights centuries before women’s lib."

It looked for a while as if Jones's project were moving exactly in the direction that she had hoped. Jones sold her book to Random House and seemed to be cruising smoothly toward a big release in August.

Then Jones sent a copy of the manuscript to academic Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, hoping that Spellberg would like the book and write a laudatory blurb for use on the jacket. Instead, Spellberg, offended by sexuality in the book (which includes a portrayal of the wedding night of Muhammad and Aisha), labeled it “soft-core pornography” and said it was “more dangerous than The Satanic Verses or the Danish cartoons."


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