After announcing its two-book publishing deal with Sherry Jones, author of the forthcoming controversial novel, The Jewel of Medina, Gibson Square Books has, for the moment, suspended its publication in the UK.
The novel tells the story of Aisha, the alleged favorite wife of the prophet Mohammed, and is characterized by Jones as “an epic love story and a story about women’s empowerment.” Amid charges of censorship, critics have purported that the book could incite violence amongst a small group of radical Muslims offended by the negative portrayal of Mohammed and/or Islam.
On Saturday, September 27, 2008, Gibson Square’s headquarters were set on fire in North London. Three men were subsequently arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, and one woman was arrested on Sunday for obstructing police during searches of homes in the London area.
On September 29, Sherry Jones’ agent, Natasha Kerns, told reporters that Martin Rynja, Gibson Square’s publisher whose residence doubles as Gibson Square’s headquarters, was “fine and uninjured [and] planning to go ahead with the book, as are other publishers worldwide, despite this shocking attack.”
However, even though the book is already en route to UK bookstores, Alan Jessop of Gibson Square’s sales company, Compass, now states that Rynja “has put publication in suspended animation while he reflects and takes advice on what the best foot forward is.” Rynja has now gone into hiding and Anjem Choudhary, former member of an Islamist group, claims that “further attacks are inevitable.”
Previously dropped by both Random House and Ballantine Books, The Jewel of Medina is being published by Beaufort Books in the U.S. and is scheduled for release on October 15, 2008.