WASHINGTON – A bestseller in Germany, Hamed Abdel-Samad’s “Islamic Fascism” was to be published in France Sept. 16.
But the French public will apparently never see the book written by a former Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member.
Two years ago, a French publisher, Piranha, acquired the rights to publish the book in France, even posting the date of release on Amazon. But, at the last minute, the publisher balked, telling Abdel-Samad’s agent publication of the book is now unthinkable in dhimmi France – not only because of security reasons, but because it would help make the case of the “extreme right.”
It’s one of the latest cases of what some are referring to as “the real Islamophobia,” the real fear of the potent economic and terror power of Islamic fascism – which, ironically, makes the case Abdel-Samad’s book tried to make.
For criticizing Islam, Abdel-Samad lives under police protection in Germany and, as with the more famous Salman Rushdie, a fatwa hangs over the son of an imam.
“After the fatwa come the insults: being censored by a free publishing house,” writes Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio in Italy. “This is what the Soviets did to destroy writers: destroy his books.”
The French publisher was not without genuine concerns. Among them was fears that its small staff would not be safe. No other French publishers seem to be ready to take the risk. But might the story of “Islamo-fascism” from the perspective of a born-and-bred member of the Muslim Brotherhood, schooled in the Quran from birth, who rejects a life of terror not have some redeeming value?
He is hardly alone.
A few years ago, the “gay” atheist Renaud Camus was fined 4,000 euros for a speech he gave saying France would soon no longer be France due to its devotion to multi-culturalism. He subsequently lost his publisher. Another writer, Richard Millet, was fired last March by Gallimard publishing house for his ideas on multiculturalism.
Such was not the case in 1989 when Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” came out in 1989. Viking Penguin, the British and American publisher of the novel, was subjected to daily Islamist harassment. The London office resembled “an armed camp,” with police protection, metal detectors and escorts for visitors. In Viking’s New York offices, dogs sniffed packages and the place was designated a “sensitive location.” Many bookshops were attacked and many even refused to sell the book.
“Viking spent about $3 million on security measures in 1989, the fatal year for Western freedom of expression,” writes Meotti. “Nonetheless, Viking never flinched. It was a miracle that the novel finally came out.”
He cites other cases of alarming self-censorship:
- “In Germany, Gabriele Brinkmann, a popular novelist, was also suddenly left without a publisher. According to her publisher, Droste, the novel Wem Ehre Geburt (‘To Whom Honor Gives Birth’) could be judged as ‘insulting to Muslims’ and expose the publisher to intimidation. Brinkmann was asked to censor some passages; she refused and lost the publishing house.”
- “This same cowardice and capitulation now pervades the entire publishing industry. Last year, Italy’s most prestigious book fair in Turin chose (then shelved) Saudi Arabia as its guest of honor, despite the many writers and bloggers who are imprisoned in the Islamic kingdom. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a 10-year sentence, and a $260,000 fine.”
Meanwhile, Western publishers are now also “rejecting works by Israeli authors,” according a report in Time.com, no matter what their political views may be.
“It is as if at the time of the Nazis’ book-burnings, Western publishers had not only stood silent, but had also invited a German delegation to Paris and New York,” writes Meotti.
Meotti cites the case of Deborah Harris is one of Israel’s leading literary agents. In the past 10 years, she told him, she has discovered that some publishers around the world are rejecting works by Israeli authors, boycotting Israeli literary events and refusing to have their books translated into Hebrew.
“Books that I could easily have placed with major publishers 10 years ago are being politely rejected,” she told me. “While it is true that some foreign fiction markets are drying up, the drop off in Israeli literature is off the scales. The older, sympathetic editors will whisper to me that they can’t get people to look at books out of Israel.”
Harris represents some of Israel’s most notable authors, including David Grossman and Meir Shalev. She also represented the single most popular book out of Israel in recent years, Yuval Harari’s Sapiens. Sapiens succeeded on a global scale, but it has not a word connecting it to Israeli culture or society. Apart from the author’s name, it could have been written anywhere.
Some authors, such as Alice Walker, he says, refuse to allow their books to be translated into Hebrew.
“It is dispiriting to find voices who otherwise support the freedom of expression speaking out to deny free expression to one country and one group of people,” writes Meotti. Despite constant existential pressure there is more freedom of expression in Israel than the majority of countries in the U.N. and more self-criticism than almost any other society on earth.”
“The Satanic Verses” was a turning point.
Christian Bourgois, a French publishing house, refused to publish the book after buying the rights, as did the German publisher, Kiepenheuer, which said it regretted having acquired the rights to the book.
Ultimately, not only did Rushdie’s publishers capitulate, other publishers also decided to break ranks and return to do business with Iran. Oxford University Press decided to take part in the Tehran Book Fair, along with two American publishers, McGraw-Hill and John Wiley, despite the request of Rushdie’s publisher, Viking Penguin, to boycott the Iranian event.
“Those publishers chose to respond to murderous censorship with surrender, willing to sacrifice freedom of expression on the altar of business as usual: selling books was more important than solidarity with threatened colleagues,” says Meotti.