Video: Author discusses Muhammad book row

updated 10/2/2008 8:50:26 PM ET 2008-10-03T00:50:26

Three men have been charged with plotting to attack the publisher of a controversial novel dealing with the Prophet Muhammad, British police said Thursday.

The suspects — salesman Abrar Mizra, 22; cab driver Abbas Taj, 30; and Ali Beheshti, 40 — were arrested Saturday near the north London home and office of Martin Rynja, who plans to publish "The Jewel of Medina," police said.

They were arrested after a fire broke out at Rynja's building, but police have refused to disclose any details.

The men were charged with plotting to endanger life and damage property. Beheshti was also charged with possessing a weapon. All three are due to appear in court Friday.

The novel by Sherry Jones is a work of historical fiction about Aisha, who according to tradition was 9 when she became the wife of the Prophet Muhammad. She later became a political and military leader in her own right.

Rynja's publishing house, Gibson Square, acquired the rights to the book after its original publisher, Random House, dropped plans to put it out. Random House said it had received credible information that the book could incite violence.

Rynja originally said it would be published in October, but those plans have reportedly stalled. "Jewel of Medina" is still scheduled to come out in more than a dozen countries.

On Thursday the book's U.S. publisher, Beaufort Books, announced it had moved up the release date from Oct. 15 to Monday.

"By speeding up the publication, we wanted to reduce or eliminate the chance of violence," Eric Kampmann, president of Beaufort Books, said. "What had occurred in London, we didn't want to have occur here. We wanted people to have a chance to read the book. Once they read the book, we thought the violence part of this story would disappear and people would be focusing on the story, and the book and Sherry."

Kampmann said he knew of no threats in the United States.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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