A Brand New Novel
Josephine Baker, the early-20th-century African-American dancer, comic, and singer–hugely famous in Paris. Did you know that she was also a spy for the French Resistance during WWII?
I was alarmed by news reports of two Chicago men arrested in connection with a Pakistani plot to attack Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Flemming Rose, the culture editor at Jyllands-Posten. One of the men allegedly wrote in a Yahoo! chat that he was “disposed toward violence” toward these men and toward me because of my books, “The Jewel of Medina” and “The Sword of Medina.” Like the staffers at Jyllands-Posten, I’d thought the danger to me was past. And perhaps it is. But even if it’s not, I refuse to succumb to fear. Courage — moral as well as personal — is what’s needed in these troubling times.
Following the example of A’isha bint Abi Bakr, protagonist of my novels, I will continue to fight for what matters to me: a free and open society where love, not hate, prevails. To be frank, I fear more for our culture than I do for myself. Because every time Muslim terrorists kill, and every time they’re arrested on U.S. soil, the risk increases that we will repeat history and let hatred overrule our reason. We must not blame all Muslims for the actions of a violent few. Likewise, we must not let fear stop us from exercising, and defending, our freedoms — such as freedom of speech and free expression — in exchange for security.
I have said many times that I hope my books “The Jewel of Medina” and “The Sword of Medina” will serve as bridge-builders between Muslim and non-Muslim populations. This latest incident demonstrates that we need these books, and others like them, more now than ever.
“These times are too heavy for skittishness,” Sinclair Lewis once said. We must demand courage, and must demonstrate it ourselves, if we want to hold on to our right to free speech. And we must cast aside the temptation to scapegoat and to hate, and summon instead reason and, along with it, love.