Washington, Aug.9 : Publishers Random House have shelved plans to publish a new book about the child bride of the Prophet Mohamed over fears that it might "incite acts of violence" by hardcore Islamists.
According to The Independent, the book titled "The Jewel of Medina", a debut novel by American journalist Sherry Jones, was to have been published next Tuesday.
Jones was paid a 50,000-pound advance for two books, and was also scheduled to undertake an eight-city publicity tour. But in May, the publisher abruptly informed her that all plans were now off.
The controversy only burst into the open this week when The Wall Street Journal published a column by the Muslim writer Asra Nomani, saying she was "saddened" by Random House's decision, and blaming an Islamic history professor Denise Spellberg for stirring up opposition to the book on the grounds it was "soft-core pornography".
Professor Spellberg, from the University of Texas in Austin, was sent an advance copy so she could provide a pre-publication blurb, but her reaction was not what the publishers were hoping for.
"Denise says it is 'a declaration of war ... explosive stuff ... a national security issue'," said an e-mail from a Random House editor quoted in The Wall Street Journal.
Thomas Perry, the deputy publisher of Random House, said the company had received "cautionary advice" that the book's appearance "might be offensive to some in the Muslim community", and that it could "incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment".
Random House had therefore decided to "postpone" publication, he said, for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel".
The Jewel of Medina follows the life of A'isha from her engagement to Mohamed, when she was six, until the Prophet's death. Jones said she was shocked to learn in May that publication would be postponed indefinitely. "I have deliberately and consciously written respectfully about Islam and Mohamed," she added.
"I envisioned that my book would be a bridge-builder," said Jones. "I wanted to honour A'isha and all the wives of Mohamed by giving voice to them, remarkable women whose crucial roles in the shaping of Islam have so often been ignored - silenced - by historians."