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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Publisher Random House has pulled a novel about the Prophet Mohammed's child bride, fearing it could "incite acts of violence."
"The Jewel of Medina," a debut novel by journalist Sherry Jones, 46, was due to be published on August 12 by Random House, a unit of Bertelsmann AG, and an eight-city publicity tour had been scheduled, Jones told Reuters on Thursday.
The novel traces the life of A'isha from her engagement to Mohammed, when she was six, until the prophet's death. Jones said that she was shocked to learn in May, that publication would be postponed indefinitely.
"I have deliberately and consciously written respectfully about Islam and Mohammed ... I envisioned that my book would be a bridge-builder," said Jones.
Random House deputy publisher Thomas Perry said in a statement the company 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."
"In this instance we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication 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," Perry said.
Jones, who has just completed a sequel to the novel examining her heroine's later life, is free to sell her book to other publishers, Perry said.
The decision has sparked controversy on Internet blogs and in academic circles. Some compared the controversy to previous cases where portrayals of Islam were met with violence.
Protests and riots erupted in many Muslim countries in 2006 when cartoons, one showing the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban resembling a bomb, appeared in a Danish newspaper. At least 50 people were killed and Danish embassies attacked.
British author Salman Rushdie's 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" was met with riots across the Muslim world. Rushdie was forced into hiding for several years after Iran's then supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, proclaimed a death edict, or fatwa, against him.
Jones, who has never visited the Middle East, spent several years studying Arab history and said the novel was a synthesis of all she had learned.
"They did have a great love story," Jones said of Mohammed and A'isha, who is often referred to as Mohammed's favorite wife. "He died with his head on her breast."
Editing by Alan Elsner