Arsonists of publisher of book about Prophet Muhammad jailed
A Times of London story reports that the three arsonists who conspired to firebomb the home office of Gibson Square publisher, Martin Rynja, have each been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit arson.
According to the Times, “Ali Beheshti, Abrar Mirza and Abbas Taj planned to set fire to Gibson Square Books after discovering it was going to publish The Jewel of Medina, a book about the Prophet and his young wife. Beheshti and Mirza poured diesel through the door of Rynja’s Islington home and set it alight. They were arrested by armed Met Police officers as they attempted to flee the scene.” Abbas Taj, the get-away driver, was stopped in his car and arrested near Angel tube station, just after Beheshti and Mirza had set fire to the premises.
The book, The Jewel of Medina, by US journalist Sherry Jones, was the object of contention when Random House US decided not to publish the book back in September for fear of inflaming Islamic fundamentalist sensibilities. (See earlier MobyLives, here and here.)
The firebombing confirmed that sensibilities were indeed inflamed, but in a Guardian article from the time of the attack, Gibson Square publisher Rynja stated, “The Jewel of Medina has become an important barometer of our time. As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate.” And, he went on to tell the Guardian, “In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear.”
Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.