The boss of a publishing company that is to release a novel about the private life of the Prophet Mohammed was under police guard last night after a fire-bomb attack on his £4million London home.
The book, The Jewel Of Medina, is a fictional account of the Prophet's relationship with his nine-year-old bride Aisha but has been described as ‘pornographic'.
The attack on Gibson Square Books' boss Martin Rynja's Islington home in the early hours of yesterday drew parallels with the threats on Salman Rushdie's life after he wrote The Satanic Verses.
Three men dressed in black and from East London were seized by waiting, armed police after petrol was poured through 44-year-old Mr Rynja's letter box and set alight.
Two of the men were held at the scene. A third was arrested in a car outside the nearby Angel Tube station. The blaze was quickly controlled by the fire brigade.
Mr Rynja, who is thought to live alone, had apparently fled the house a few hours earlier after police tipped him off about a possible attack.
A neighbour said: ‘We woke up and the square was full of unmarked police cars and a huge number of anti-terrorist police running around carrying sub-machine guns.'
Former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella, whose teenage brother Ben was killed in a knife attack earlier this year, lives with her family near to Mr Rynja.
His decision to publish The Jewel Of Medina was seen as a high-risk move by his friends and rivals in the publishing world.
The novel by US journalist Sherry Jones was scheduled for publication by Random House earlier this year but cancelled after an Islamic scholar attacked its contents.
The Random House blurb for the book read: ‘Married at nine to the much older Muhammad, Aisha uses her wits, courage and sword to defend her first-wife status even as Muhammad marries again and again, taking 12 wives and concubines in all.'
Random House pulled out after Texas university Professor Denise Spellberg decided to ‘warn Muslims'. She said: ‘You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into soft-core pornography.'
But Mr Rynja seemed unconcerned about a reaction like the fatwa issued against Mr Rushdie, calling on Muslims to kill him.
He said this month: ‘If a novel of quality that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West cannot be published here, it would mean the clock has been turned back to the Dark Ages.'
The book is due to be released next month.
Last night three men aged 40, 30 and 22 were in custody under the Terrorism Act. Police were searching properties in Ilford, Walthamstow and Forest Gate.