Sadly, the talk of violence in the Jewel of Medina controversy was not just theoretical. The New York Times reported yesterday that Martin Rynja of Gibson Square, the book’s UK publisher, was the victim of something more than inflammatory speech. Thankfully, no one was hurt (“Attack May Be Tied To Book About Muhammad,” by Sarah Lyall):
Early Saturday morning, Mr. Rynja’s house in North London, which doubles as Gibson Square’s headquarters, was set on fire. Three men were arrested on suspicion “of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism,” the police said.
The Sunday Times offers a bit more detail, explaining that the quick response to the fire was thanks to Scotland Yard (“Muslim gang firebombs publisher of Allah novel, Martin Rynja,” by David Leppard):
The suspected terror gang was being followed by undercover police and the fire was quickly put out after the fire brigade smashed down the front door.
Blame for the attack, of course, lies with the attackers. They had the idea and carried it out. But I can’t help but wonder if they would have been anticipating the novel’s publication so hotly if not for the chain of events set in motion by Denise Spellberg, the associate professor of Islamic history at University of Texas (Austin), who, when asked to blurb the book, instead set off a chain of events in which many people who hadn’t even read it then condemned it as offensive to Muslims.
I guess we’ll never know.