Mohammad wife novel released early in U.S. after fire

Mon Oct 6, 2008 6:27pm EDT
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A controversial novel about the Prophet Mohammad's child bride was rushed to U.S. stores on Monday, nine days ahead of schedule, after the office of the book's British publisher was attacked.

Beaufort Books picked up "The Jewel of Medina" by journalist Sherry Jones after it was dropped by Random House in May because of concerns it could incite violence.

Beaufort said it sent out an initial print run of 40,000 copies.

The novel traces the life of the child bride, Aisha, from her engagement to Mohammad at age 6, until the prophet's death.

The headquarters of the book's British publisher, Gibson Square Books, was set on fire on September 27. No one was injured, but the publication date was suspended. British police arrested three men on suspicion of terrorism.

Beaufort's president, Eric Kampmann, said neither he nor Jones, 37, had received threats but both wanted to get the book out as soon as possible.

"We felt that, given what was happening, it was better for everybody... to let the conversation switch from a conversation about terrorists and fearful publishers to a conversation about the merits of the book itself," Kampmann said in an interview.

Random House said in August it had received "cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment."   Continued...