On April 25, 2004, FaithWorks publishers issued a 992-page book by Craig Winn, Prophet of Doom: Islam's Terrorist Dogma, In Muhammad's Own Words. So eager are they to get Winn's thoughts out that the book is both available in hardback and downloadable from the Internet.
As the title suggests, the study is a relentless attack on the Prophet Muhammad. As a summary puts it: "Islam is a caustic blend of regurgitated paganism and twisted Bible stories. Muhammad, its lone prophet, conceived his religion solely to satiate his lust for power, sex, and money. He was a terrorist." Strong stuff, to be sure, but also part of a Christian polemical legacy going back to the very origins of Islam.
Islamists have responded by trying to censor the book. An online petition, "Stop Hatred & Misinformation about the Best of Creation (peace be upon him)" with (as of today) 56,713 signatures finds that the book
is outside the pale of America's freedom of expression as it contributes towards the provocation of hate and the fraying of the fabric of its multi-cultural society by offending the sensibilities of a large segment of its population.
The petition was sponsored by members of the "Islamic Educational and Cultural Research Center," which describes itself as an organization "following the principles, methods and scholarship of the early Muslim." It goes on to call for "the removal of all copies of this book from all bookstores – regular or online and for the cessation of its publication immediately."
The above petition soon spawned a response titled "First Amendment freedoms include the right to criticize Islam and Muhammad." Currently signed by 3,116 petitioners, it reads in part:
We the undersigned are shocked and appalled by recent Muslim attempts to stifle circulation of Craig Winn's Prophet of Doom. … As firm supporters of First Amendment freedoms, we demand that authors critical of Islam (or any other religion) be given full First Amendment protection. … we demand that all bookstores ignore such scare tactics and make Mr. Winn's book readily available, in accordance with customer demand.
The assault on Prophet of Doom also takes more threatening forms. Here is a review posted at amazon.com on Nov. 21:
Good use of this book, November 21, 2004
Reviewer: Proud Muslim "Proud Muslim" (Fairfax, Virginia USA) – See all my reviews.
There is good use of this book, in our FIREPLACES
trashed and burned and along with the author!!
Comment: The virtues or faults of Prophet of Doom are not the issue here. The question is whether Islam may be publicly critiqued or not in the United States. (November 22, 2004)
Jan. 3, 2005 update: The threats keep pouring in. Winn posts one an e-mail that arrived today from "The Jealous Muslim Group" that includes this statement (with mistakes left unfixed):
you have to choose one from two options: 1)To take your book (Prophet of Doom : Islam's Terrorist Dogma in Muhammad's Own Words) out of circulation & to close your website & to apologize officialy for the prophet Muhammad peace upon him & for islam. 2)Or you will be killed suddenly & in an unexpected way(we know where do you live)
This is a SERIOUS message proceeded from THE JEALOUS MUSLIM GROUP. You have only 6 days(from 4.jan to 10.jan 2005) to choose the first option or we will consider you chosen the second option & then you just have to get ready for a kill at every moment...*If you choose the first option you must send us an email to inform us about the details of stopping the book & your apologize.
Comment: There is the possibility that this and the amazon.com threat are provocations, posted by those interested discrediting Muslims and Islam. But they have a disquieting similarity to authenticated threats and therefore have to be taken seriously.
Aug. 22 2005 update: I pursue this general topic further at "Talking Freely about the Enemy."