Religion of Peace or Arson or Whatever

Mostly good news from London:

Early this month, Gibson Square publishers here announced that it would publish “The Jewel of Medina,” a novel about the early life of A’isha, one of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad. It was a bold decision: the book’s United States publisher, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, had canceled its publication in August amid fears that it would offend and inflame Muslim extremists. (It has since been bought by another American publisher, Beaufort Books.)

For his part, Martin Rynja, Gibson Square’s publisher, said that it was “imperative” that the book be published. “In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear,” he said. “As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.”

Early Saturday morning, Mr. Rynja’s house in North London, which doubles as Gibson Square’s headquarters, was set on fire. Three men were arrested on suspicion “of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism,” the police said.

Now, when are Andy Sullivan’s “Christianists” going to come burn down my place for all that nasty talk about evolution?

Oh, and kudos to the New York Times for actually mentioning what makes the book so controversial:

The book tells the story of the relationship between the Prophet Muhammad and A’isha, who married him as a child and is often described as his favorite wife. Ballantine Books bought the rights to it in a two-book deal for a reported $100,000, Ballantine had planned to publish it in mid-August.

But it scrapped those plans after being warned that the book “could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment,” Thomas Perry, deputy publisher of Random House Publishing Group, was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

The Times, it seems, has much bigger ones than the folks at Random House.