The Sunday Times reports that over the weekend book publisher Martin Rynja had his London home firebombed by three Muslims who found one of the books his firm is publishing to be blasphemous:
Security officials believe Rynja was targeted for assassination because his firm, Gibson Square, is preparing to publish a romantic novel about Aisha, child bride of the Prophet Muhammad. The Jewel of Medina, by the first-time American author Sherry Jones, describes an imaginary sex scene between the prophet and his 14-year-old wife.
It was withdrawn from publication in America last month after its publisher there, Random House, said it feared a violent reaction by "a small radical segment" of Muslims. It said "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book could incite violence.
Random House reacted after Islamic scholars objected to its contents, saying it treated the wife of the Prophet as a sex object. One of them, Denise Spellberg, of the University of Texas at Austin, described the novel as "soft-core pornography", referring to a scene in which Muhammad consummates his marriage to Aisha. She called it "a declaration of war" and a "national security issue".
At the time, her warnings were dismissed by the author. "Anyone who reads the book will not be offended," said Jones. "I wrote the book with the utmost respect for Islam." However, Jones admitted receiving death threats after the book was withdrawn.
It would have been perfectly reasonable for Random House to spike this book if it had a general policy against publishing smut or religiously insensitive material. But how shameful is it that a major American book publisher openly admits it decided not to publish a book simply because it feared the violent reactions of radical Muslims? How shameful is it that an American author has to travel overseas to exercise her First Amendment rights?