Publishers cave in to threat of Islam ban

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A Book describing the history of Jihad - Muslim "holy war" - has been cancelled by its publisher for fear of offending Islamic fundamentalists.

Jihad, by Paul Fregosi, was to have been published by Little Brown later this year. But after a Muslim academic warned the firm that "Muslim countries might, and should, boycott the publishers if they published the work," it was dropped.

Mr Fregosi, author of a critically acclaimed account of the Napoleonic wars, said Little Brown's attitude changed after a letter-bomb attack on a Saudi newspaper office in London.

In a letter to him last month, ending their contract, the firm's editorial director, Richard Beswick, warned that "if Little Brown received threats from Islamic fundamentalists and had to arrange for security, we could look to you for the cost of provision of such security. Equally, if Little Brown's list (not just your book, but our full range of titles) were boycotted, we could look to you for our losses."

Little Brown's planned jacket for the book billed Jihad as "the first general history about this subject to appear in print in the West". It was "both scholarly and accessible" and "a crucial chronicle of a much- neglected area of world history".

Mr Fregosi says that it was Little Brown's decision to seek an expert opinion from Dr Roger Boase, an English academic converted to Islam, that turned the publisher against his book. Dr Boase reported that he had written an unbalanced account and had relied on "a fallacy that Islam was spread by the sword".

Mr Fregosi said his aim had been to show that Muhammad was more of a warrior and more bloodthirsty than his image.

At his home, Dr Boase said the book was "offensive to anyone who cares about the truth, regardless of whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim". He did not accept that Muslims were over-sensitive, or that Christians would not threaten to boycott the publisher of a book about the Crusades. There "ought to be limits on what people can do".