Syrian writer Nabil Fayyad said he is fleeing to Europe after a recent fatwa calling for his murder appeared on an Islamist website.
According to the Internet statement, Fayyad's new book -- The Prophet's Wife Eats her Children Up – amounts to a declaration of war against Muslims.
The book tells the story of the dispute between Aisha, the Prophet's wife, also called "Mother of the Believers," and the two Islamic caliphs -- successors to the Prophet -- Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abu-Talib.
"I sent some of my belongings and books to Germany. I will immigrate there soon," Fayyad told Al-Arabiya.net.
"I was reassured that the matter is under control and that nothing will happen to me if I stay, but I didn't take that seriously," added the outspoken Syrian intellectual.
What he did take seriously was the fatwa published on websites affiliated to militant groups like al-Qaeda that said that Fayyad's murder was the "duty of every Muslim."
Fayyad said his fear grew after the fatwa was removed days later: "This could be an indication that something is being hatched against me in secret," he said.
Last September, popular Syrian magazine Al-Ijtimaiah called on its readers to "urinate" on Fayyad for "insulting Islam" over an article he wrote in defense of lesbians.
At the time, Fayyad said: "Lashing out at me is better than killing me."
Fayyad is one of the most outspoken Syrian thinkers, whose fervent defense of human rights and freedom of expression has made him the target of constant campaigns by conservatives.
His book, published years ago in Lebanon, was banned in Syria. But a recent Egyptian edition that was distributed at the Khartoum Book Fair in Sudan landed two Egyptians in jail.
A Sudanese appeals court later freed the two men, who were serving six-month sentences for degrading religion or spreading hate by insulting the Prophet and his wife.
Fayyad said he knew nothing of the Egyptian edition and his permission was not sought before its publication or distribution.
He denied reports that the book was related to Shiitization campaigns, said to be gaining momentum in Syria and allegedly funded by Iran.
"I am against the Iranian regime, and anyway the book did not use any Shiite references," Fayyad said.
The translated text of the Arabic fatwa reads: "From Abi Abdullah Al-Masri to brother fighters in the Levant: There's been news about the detention of Egyptians in Sudan for displaying Nabil Fayyad's The Prophet's Wife Eats her Children Up at the Khartoum International Book Fair.
"Although we believe that the two Egyptians are partly held accountable for circulating such a bad book, the writer is the one to blame. After we examined the book and reached the conclusion that it is a declared war on Muslims, we ask our brothers in Al-Sham to put an end to this apostate who openly debased Islam in its very land. Killing Nabil Fayyad is the duty of every Muslim."
Two years ago, Fayyad was jailed briefly for his articles about corruption in Syria. Many of his books have been banned in Arab countries.
Fayyad is fluent in English, German, and Italian. He also studied Hebrew and Aramaic so he can read religious texts in their original forms.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).