The London home of the publisher of a controversial new novel that gives a fictionalised account of the Prophet Muhammad's relationship with his child bride, Aisha, was firebombed yesterday, hours after police had warned the man that he could be a target for fanatics.This is exactly how Jews, Christians and other religions react when books are published that they feel insulted by, right?
A petrol bomb is believed to have been thrown through the door of Martin Rynja's £2.5m town house in Islington's Lonsdale Square, which also doubles as the headquarters of his publishing company, Gibson Square. Three men have been arrested on terrorism charges.
The Observer has learned that police told Rynja late on Friday night to leave his property. His company recently made headlines when it announced it was to publish The Jewel of Medina.
Written by US journalist Sherry Jones, the book was due to have been published in August by US giant Random House. But amid controversy the company halted publication, a move denounced by Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, as 'censorship by fear'.
Rynja bought the UK publishing rights earlier this month. 'The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time,' Rynja said at the time. 'As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.'
Yesterday the Metropolitan Police confirmed that three men had been arrested in connection with the incident in Lonsdale Square. Two men aged 22 and 30 were stopped by armed officers in the street outside the property and a third man, aged 40, was arrested near Angel tube station. Police have begun searching four addresses around north-east London - two in Walthamstow, one in Ilford and one in Forest Gate.
The men were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, and last night were being questioned at a central London police station, a Met spokesman said. Scotland Yard confirmed that a small fire inside the property had been extinguished. 'At this early stage it is being linked with the arrests,' the spokesman said.
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