Norwegian Publisher Cancels Biography of Muhammed

The Norwegian historian and journalist Halvor Tjønn has written a biography of the founder of Islam, Muhammed. The book was announced by the Oslo publisher Kagge in last year’s fall catalog. But now the publisher has suddenly pulled out -- and refuses to provide any explanation of why it no longer wishes to publish the book.

According to the newspaper Aftenposten, Kagge says that it doesn’t consider it dangerous to put out such a book, but at the same time it refuses to give a reason for its turnaround:

It was five years ago today that Jyllands-Posten published the drawings that led to the cartoon crisis. In Halvor Tjønn’s planned Muhammed biography there are no illustrations. Tjønn delivered the manuscript of his book, which is based largely on Muslim historians’ accounts of the prophet’s life, as early as late January last year.  The historical records the author has used as the basis for his book are from the eighth and ninth centuries.

”We have now agreed with the author that we will not publish this book.We wish him luck with another publisher,” says Anne Gaathaug, Kaage’s publishing director.

”Does the decision have anything to do with the powerful reactions by Muslims to the Muhammed cartoons and with your fear that the book might cause trouble?” 

”It’s an internal matter.  I have no further comments,” says Gaathaug.

“Has the publisher received threats in connection with the publication?”

”The publishing house has not received threats. And we did not consider it dangerous at all to publish the book.  That’s not the reason why we don’t want to give it out,” says Gaathaug.

Halvor Tjønn, who works as reporter on Aftenposten’s foreign desk, says he is surprised by the publisher’s decision. Tjønn, as well, is not especially willing to talk about the reason for the differences over the book, but we understand that it’s not about the book’s quality:

"It goes without saying that if the publisher had objections to the book’s quality, that would have come up much earlier in the process, and not after a year and a half," he says

Nonetheless, Tjønn does not wish to detail the reasons he has been given for the rejection.

"It has to be up to Kagge Publishing to give an account of the assessments they have made," he says.