DEATH FATWA ON AUTHOR
Date: 29 Sep 2008
Mohammed novel: Author attacks academic behind 'pornography' claim
An academic who called a controversial book about the Prophet Mohammed "softcore pornography" has been told by its author to apologise after the home of its publisher was targeted in a suspected petrol bomb attack.
By Aislinn Simpson
Last Updated: 10:53AM BST 29 Sep 2008
Martin Rynja, whose Gibson Square publishing house will release The Jewel of the Medina in the UK next month, is under police protection following the incident in Islington, north London, in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The book, by American author Sherry Jones, focuses on Mohammed's relationship with his young bride Aisha, and has also been the subject of warnings by Islamic extremists of a wave of reprisals if it is published.
It was dropped from publication in the United States by Random House earlier this year because it said it had heard from "credible and unrelated sources" that the work "could incite acts of violence".
The row about the book's publication blew up after Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas, was quoted in the US media as saying it took "sacred history" and turned it into "softcore pornography".
Sherry Jones has now called on Miss Spellberg to retract her comments, saying they are "unfair" and "slanderous".
"She used the most inflammatory language she could possibly have used," she said.
"If you want to incite heated emotions from any religious group you just use the word 'pornography' in the same sentence as their revered figures.
"She ought to take back her words because it is in no way an accurate description of my book. There are no sex scenes in it."
The writer said the arson attack, from which Mr Rynja, 44, escaped uninjured, was "a reprehensible act of violence by criminals", adding she believed most Muslims would not be offended once they had read her novel because it was never intended to "dishonour" Mohammed.
"When people read my book I fully expect the people who are going to be my biggest detractors will be the ones who hate Muslims," she said.
"They will be unhappy to see how compassionately Mohammed comes across. I have not dishonoured the Prophet. I say: read the book, I wrote it with the intention of honouring him."
Sherry Jones' agent Natasha Kern said that the book will be published in the UK in two weeks, and that negotiations with other publishers around the world were continuing.
Mr Rynja is described by friends as "taking on projects where others fear to tread" and has published several books by controversial authors including Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy who was poisoned in London after becoming an outspoken critic of the country's prime minister and former president Vladimir Putin.
Buying the British and Commonwealth rights to the Sherry Jones novel last week, Mr Rynja described it as a "moving love story".
But the radical cleric Anjem Choudhary said the book was an insult to the Prophet Mohammed's honour, something he said would warrant a "death penalty" under Sharia law.
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