Plans for the British publication of a controversial novel about a young wife of the Prophet Mohammed have been postponed following a fire bomb attack at the publisher's London office.
Martin Rynja of Gibson Square books intended to publish 'The Jewel of Medina' by U.S. writer Sherry Jones.
But following the attack on his London home, his plans are now said to be "in suspended animation".
Alan Jessop of Compass, the publisher's sales representative, said: "He (Rynja) is in good spirits, but has put publication in suspended animation while he reflects and takes advice on what the best foot forward is."
Novelist Sherry Jones yesterday urged the British people to stand by the principle of free speech to ensure that her book about the Prophet Mohammed was published here.
She spoke out after learning of the attack on Rynja's home.
'You have to ask whether a thug with a gun or petrol bomb should be allowed to censor the people of Great Britain,' Miss Jones, 47, said at her home in Spokane, Washington state.
'This is about the future of free speech. Is it the case that there are now some books which cannot be published in Britain?
'My publisher cannot fight this all by himself. I hope the people of Britain will support him. He is a courageous man.'
Mr Rynja, 44, was in hiding with an armed police guard following the strike by suspected Muslim extremists at the weekend.
Radicals say the book insults the Prophet - an offence which they say carries a death
However, Mohammed Shafiq, from Muslim youth group The Ramadhan Foundation, while admitting he was disgusted by the novel, called for calm among Muslims.
He said: 'The novel serves no purpose and does little to promote understanding between communities.
'I also strongly condemn the thugs that used terrorism against the publishing house. They do not represent Islam or Muslims.'
The book traces the life of A'isha, Mohammed's first and favourite wife. It tells of her marriage aged nine to the much older Mohammed, and how she uses her wits, courage and sword to defend her position as he takes another 12 wives and concubines.
While the basic facts of the narrative are generally accepted, critics say it 'misinterprets and falsifies sacred history' by adding fictional scenes.
Most controversially, it includes a description of the night Mohammed and A'isha consummate their marriage.
Mr Rynja agreed to publish the novel after Random House cancelled a £54,000 deal last month, fearing a violent reaction by 'a small radical segment' of Muslims.
It followed comments by Denise Spellberg, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas, that the book had turned a 'sacred history' into 'soft core pornography'.
Miss Jones - who has been contacted by the FBI over the danger she now faces - has asked the professor for a retraction because, she says, the description is not true and is responsible for the firebombing in London.
Miss Jones has been a smalltown newspaper reporter for more than 20 years. She has never been to the Middle East. But, she said, 'my interest in the subject began when on September 11, 2001 the Middle East came to us'.
She read of the oppression of women by the Taliban in Afghanistan and began to seek out books on the subject, which brought her to the story of A'isha.
The initial reaction from the Random House was ecstatic, she said. They sent the book for review to a number of Islamic experts in U.S. universities. That was when the trouble began.
'I got a call from my agent saying one of the professors (Denise Spellberg) had called Random House with dire warnings of terrorism.
'They then received a letter from the academic's lawyer threatening litigation if her name was linked to the book, which she described as softcore pornography.
'My book has almost no sex in it. There is sexuality but very little even of that.'
Random House then sent the manuscript to three Muslim scholars. Two said the subject matter could offend some Muslims. On May 21, Random pulled the plug.
Miss Jones's agent found her another publisher in the U.S. and then Mr Rynja's Gibson Square imprint in the UK.
The author believes that the impression her novel gives of the Prophet is positive.
'Mohammed was compassionate, wise, gentle and charismatic and respected women.'
She said that some of the worst hate mail she had received was from people who accused her of being an apologist for Islam.
The man willing to take on books that others find too hot to handle
Publisher Martin Rynja is described by one literary admirer as 'a beautiful man with beautiful manners'. Another coos that he is 'a total sweetie'.
The Dutchman's professional reputation is altogether more robust. He has made his name in recent years by publishing books which larger, more established firms felt were too hot to handle.
On Saturday morning this approach saw Mr Rynja's £2.5million townhouse in Islington - which was both his home and office - become the target of a firebomb attack when three men poured petrol through the letterbox and set it alight.
Mr Rynja, 44, went into publishing after studying law at Leyden University in the Netherlands and Oxford.
He held a senior commissioning position at the long-established publisher Duckworth before setting up Gibson Square Books six years ago.
The firm was named after the elegant North London address at which he lives and works.
His first big coup, in 2004, was to snap up the UK rights for American author Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud.
It explored the links between the White House and the Saudi royal family in the light of the 9/11 terror attacks and was a best-seller in the U.S..
Ironically, the UK's altogether more robust libel laws frightened off its U.S. publisher Random House from selling it here.
They predicted legal problems for anyone who did. So Mr Rynja stepped in, with typically forthright comments.
He said that Random had 'chickened out' in a disgraceful retreat from the principles of free expression.
Last year saw two further controversies. Gibson Square published OJ Simpson's If I Did It, his 'hypothetical' account of how he would have killed Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.
The book had originally been bought by the U.S. publishing giant HarperCollins, which later dropped it in the face of mounting criticism.
Although the royalties were going to the Goldman family, few publishers in the UK were interested in courting such bad publicity.
Not Mr Rynja. On the jacket of the Gibson Square edition the 'if' of the title was barely visible. 'It reflects the grey area (of the case),' he explained.
Gibson Square also re-published Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror, by Alexander Litvinenko, the dissident former KGB agent who was murdered in London by exposure to radioactive substances.
Mr Rynja declared it to be 'an important book which deserves to be read'.
According Miss Jones's agent Gibson Square was chosen for the UK rights to The Jewel of Medina because of its track record of handling difficult books.
When the UK publication of the book - which so far has only been published in Serbia - was announced Mr Rynja said: 'I immediately felt that it was imperative to publish it.
'In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear.'
• Scotland Yard said three men aged 40, 22 and 30 were arrested under the terrorism act following the attack on Mr Rynja's home in Islington.