Denise Spellberg

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Denise A. Spellberg (born c. 1958) is an American scholar of Islamic history. She is an associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Spellberg holds a BA from Smith College (1980) and a PhD (1989) from Columbia University.

Academic work[edit]

Spellberg is the author of Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr, a widely cited work on the portrayal of Aisha in Islamic tradition. In particular, Spellberg shows how later commentators reinterpreted Aisha’s role at the Battle of Camel (656,) where she rode her camel into battle against Ali but stayed inside the litter with the curtains closed, as an argument that women should never participate in public affairs.[1][2]

The Jewel of Medina[edit]

In 2008 Spellberg was involved in a controversy over Sherry Jones' historical novel The Jewel of Medina. Random House, which intended to publish the novel later that year, had sent Spellberg galley proofs, hoping for a publishable comment. Spellberg sharply criticized the novel from a historical perspective, and also reportedly told Random House publishing the book might result in violence by radical Muslims. Subsequently, Random House indefinitely postponed publication, citing concerns about violence from extremists.[3] Asra Nomani wrote about the events in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, in which she characterized Spellberg as "the instigator of the trouble".[3] In the wake of Nomani's article, a number of publications printed pieces criticizing Spellberg's actions as tantamount to advocating censorship.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] Spellberg responded with a letter in the Wall Street Journal contesting Nomani's characterization of her as the "instigator" of the book's cancellation. She wrote that she was not advocating censorship, but rather offering her professional assessment of the book and a warning about the potential reaction from some Muslims.[11][12][12]

Religious and civil rights[edit]

Spellberg has advocated the protection of the civil rights of Americans, telling a seminar audience on "Preventing another September 11," that, "Now more than ever, all of us need to stand together. United is not simply against violence but for the protection of the religions and civil rights of all citizens of this country." [13]

Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an[edit]

In 2013 Spellberg published Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders. The book discusses a copy of the Qur'an owned by Thomas Jefferson as well as Jefferson's views on Islam, arguing that his vision for religious freedom in the United States specifically included Muslims.[14]

Books[edit]

  • Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha Bint Abi Bakr. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
  • Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders, New York: Knopf, October 1, 2013. ISBN 978-0307268228

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World , by James E. Lindsay, 2005, p.68
  2. ^ Kate E. Tunstall (2006). Displacement, Asylum, Migration: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, p. 310. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ a b Nomani, Asra Q. (2008-08-06). "You Still Can't Write About Mohammad". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company). Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  4. ^ Random Error, Editorial, Washington Post, August 22, 2008
  5. ^ The Triumph of Threats, Editorial, Jyllands-Posten (translation by Gates of Vienna blog) August 22, 2008 [1][2]
  6. ^ Censorship Never Goes Out of Style, by Bob Hoover, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 31, 2008 [3]
  7. ^ Islamic Intimidation Trumps Liberty Again, Extremists need not make a single threat to silence writers, Editorial, Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 25, 2008 [4]
  8. ^ Pre-emptive Censorship is Offensive to Muslims, by Irshad Manji, The Globe and Mail, August 22, 2008 [5]
  9. ^ "Freedom's Gift to Religion", by Adam Kirsch, New York Sun, August 26, 2008 [6]
  10. ^ 'The Jewel of Medina': Anatomy of a Ruckus," Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 19, 2008 [7]
  11. ^ Spellberg, Denise (2008-08-09). "I Didn't Kill 'The Jewel of Medina'". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company). Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  12. ^ a b UT professor's complaints lead to cancellation of book about Muhammad's wife, by Edward Nawotka, The Austin American-Statesman, August 13, 2008.
  13. ^ http://www.interfaithdialog.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=75&Itemid=84
  14. ^ "The Surprising Story Of 'Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an'" (October 12, 2013). npr.org. Retrieved October 17, 2013.