Terrorism arrests in North London have been linked to plans to publish in New Zealand and Britain a controversial book on the prophet Muhammad and his child bride.
The arrests are connected to a fire at a property in Islington, north London, which is used as the home and office of Martin Rynja, a publisher whose company, Gibson Square, plans to publish in New Zealand the book The Jewel of Medina, The Telegraph reported.
The blaze may have been started by a petrol bomb pushed through the letterbox.
Initially, three men, aged 22, 30 and 40, were detained at around 2.25am. Two were stopped by armed officers in Lonsdale Square, and the third was seized when a car was stopped by armed police near Angel underground station. The men were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
A major publishing group, Random House US, announced in May this year that it was dropping its plans to publish the debut novel by American journalist Sherry Jones, of Spokane, Washington, following warnings that it could incite acts of violence from radical Muslims.
The Jewel of the Medina was also pulled from bookshops in Serbia last month after pressure from an Islamic group.
Gibson Square, which has previously published other controversial books, bought the rights to Jones's book after Random House pulled out and plans to publish it in Britain and Australia as well as New Zealand. In the US, the book will be published by Beaufort Books.
Speaking before yesterday's attack, Mr Rynja said: "In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear. As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.
"If a novel of quality and skill that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West, but have a genuine interest in, cannot be published here, it would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages. The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time."
Mr Rynja said that he hoped that once people read the novel in its entirety there would be a "healthy discussion" about its content.
"(Jones has) done very careful and detailed research for the novel - she's writing about this love story which even after 1400 years we don't know much about."
Mr Rynja was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Ms Jones, also speaking before yesterday's attack, said that her novel had was not intended to be disrespectful to Islam.
"I have deliberately and consciously written respectfully about Islam and Muhammad and I envisaged that my book would be a bridge-builder."
Random House was told by security experts and academics that the novel, for which it paid a ,000 (,000) advance, was potentially more incendiary than both The Satanic Verses and the Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad.
The company decided not to publish the title "for the safety of the author, employees of Random House Inc, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the book".
The publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988 saw attempts made on the lives of author Salman Rushdie's Italian and Norwegian publishers, while the Japanese translator of the book was killed.
The Jewel of Medina, about Aisha, child bride of the Prophet Muhammad, in seventh-century Arabia was destined to be a Book of the Month selection, and to also feature in the Quality Paperback Book Club.
But an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Denise Spellberg, an expert in history and Middle Eastern studies, questioned the publishing plans.
"Denise says it is `declaration of war ... explosive stuff ... a national security issue.' She thinks there is a very real possibility of major danger for the buildings and staff and widespread violence. Thinks it will be far more controversial than The Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons ... thinks the book should be withdrawn ASAP," an editor at Knopf wrote in an e-mail that made the rounds at Random House.
Questions were raised about the potential impact on Fonterra's dairy trade to Islamic nations in 2005 when New Zealand newspapers published the Danish cartoons which some critics of the cartoons described as Islamophobic or racist, and argued that they are blasphemous to people of the Muslim faith.