A presumably muslim minicab driver has been found guilty of helping try to firebomb the home of a publisher days before the release of a novel about the marital life of the Prophet Mohamed.
Abbas Taj was waiting in his car as two accomplices poured diesel through the letter box of the four-storey home of Martin Rynja, who had vowed to publish The Jewel of Medina after the American-based giant Random House postponed
publication due to concerns that the book would lead to acts of violence by Muslim extremists.
Taj arrived outside the home of the publisher in Islington, at 2am on 27 September last year and watched Abrar Mirza and Ali Beheshti try to set light to the house, which is also the publisher's office.
Aren’t you scared? I get asked this question all the time, most recently in the wake of the news that three radical extremist Muslim men conspired to set fire to the home office of Gibson Square, the London publisher that had been set
to publish my novel The Jewel of Medina last October.
Whether or not my book is respectful, however, has little to do with the real issue here. For, although the extremists lost in court, they have apparently won where it really counts — in the UK’s book stores.
After Gibson Square’s publisher announced, a couple of weeks after the arson attempt, that he was indefinitely postponing publication of The Jewel of Medina — following in the footsteps of Random House in the US — I awarded world English
publication rights to Beaufort Books, my US publishing house whose publisher and small staff have supported my book unwaveringly, despite hate mail, lawsuit threats, and Anjem Choudary’s own assertion that not only I, but my publishers, might
deserve to die.
Beaufort publisher Eric Kampmann and associate publisher Margot Atwell headed to the London Book Fair in April with a full display of The Jewel of Medina and confidence that they would find the right distributor to supply stores in the UK with
the book. But — no. Everyone, it seems, is too afraid.
These three Muslim thugs who tried to torch the British people’s right to read a book would be easy to shrug off as isolated cases, as simple bullies. The fact is, though, that soon after that attack, extremist groups in the UK exerted an
organised effort to keep The Jewel of Medina out of British bookstores. Luke Johnson, chairman of Borders UK, wrote in the Financial Times online that his company had
received threats that it would “suffer” if Borders UK sold The Jewel of Medina .
Surely, in a civilised society, we cannot allow thuggish behaviour to intimidate us. Otherwise we could all end up being tyrannised by violent and vocal minorities, cowed into submission in pursuit of a comfortable life. How then would
humanity and invention progress? Mr Johnson wrote.
The muslim arsonists who tried to burn down the house of the publisher of The Jewel of Medina have each been sentenced to 4 years, 6 months in jail.
Sentencing Ali Beheshti and two accomplices, Mrs Justice Rafferty told them: If you choose to live in this country, you live by its rules. There is no such thing as "a la carte citizenship" and, in your case, there is no such thing
as "a la carte obedience" to the law.
Beheshti, a follower of hate cleric Abu Hamza, poured diesel through the letterbox of Martin Rynja's £2.5million house and set it alight to punish him for agreeing to release The Jewel of Medina , a fictional account of the
Prophet's child bride.
Last September, with accomplices Abrar Mirza and Abbas Taj he attacked the five-storey home and office of Rynja in Islington, North London. A small fire began but nobody was hurt because police and fire crews arrived in time to smash down the
door and put it out.
Fearing extremists reacting violently to the publication of books deemed to be offensive to Islam, many publishers have thought twice about what they release about the religion. Author of The Young Atheist's Handbook Alom Shaha says
it's time to discuss faith properly
We can't publish this, we'll get firebombed. Apparently this was the response from one of the staff at Biteback Publishing, the UK publishers of my book, The Young Atheist's Handbook, when it was first presented to them. Thankfully, Iain
Dale, the managing director, laughed at the idea, saying, it's OK, we're on the 10th floor and went on to publish the book anyway.
It's not just staff at Biteback who may have been concerned about publishing my book --- according to a senior editor at one of the largest international publishers, who claimed to be personally keen to give me a deal, she was unable to convince
her colleagues to agree because a number of people in the company would be uncomfortable about it. She then went on to explain that by uncomfortable she really meant afraid .