September 15, 2008 / 5:50 PM / 9 years ago

"Jewel of Medina" to return to Serbian stores

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A controversial novel on the Prophet Mohammed's life will return to Serbian bookstores this week, a month after the publisher withdrew it due to complaints from the Muslim community, its Serbian publisher said on Monday.

"The Jewel of Medina will be released again today and it will be in bookstores by Wednesday," Aleksandar Jasic, the director of Serbian publisher Beobook, told Reuters. "We don't think it insults anyone."

"Besides, the book will be launched in October across the globe. From Britain and Germany to Brazil and the U.S.," he said. Random House cancelled the U.S. launch of "The Jewel of Medina" in August, but another publisher, Beaufort Books, has bought the novel and announced its release for October.

A statement from the Serbian government expressed "deep regret that the publication of the book The Jewel of Medina, for the sake of commercial interests, has ignored and hurt the feelings of the members of the Islamic community."

The government said the publication came at a "complex and sensitive global political moment" but it could not violate the freedom of speech.

The Serbian translation of the debut novel by American journalist Sherry Jones was launched on August 1. Beobook, which sold 600 copies in two weeks in August, withdrew it when the Islamic community demanded a ban on its sale.

Muslims said the content of the book, especially details describing relations between Mohammed and his wife Aisha, offended their feelings. "Private lives are something we should keep to ourselves," Serbia's Imam Muhamed Jusufspahic had said.

Jasic said the reaction of a part of the Islamic community in Serbia had been unusually strong so he had decided at the time to withdraw the whole edition from stores.

"We decided to give some time to those who think their human rights had been violated to initiate a court procedure to ban the book. It is for the court to decide whether a book entices hatred or calls on violence," he said, adding no legal Cases had been launched.

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