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Anger Runs Deep In Moslem Community; Vengeance Does Not With PM-Satanic Verses, Bjt

February 16, 1989 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ The anger over Salman Rushdie and his novel ″The Satanic Verses″ is quick to flare and shared by many in London’s Moslem community, from the sweetmeats shopkeeper to the Bangladeshi banker.

But while they spare no insult for the author they accuse of blasphemy, many in the city’s narrow East End streets don’t seek vengeance and reject Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s order to execute him.

The Imams and Mosque council in Britain issued an appeal to ″all imams″ - Moslem clergymen - to respect British law.

An information office representing Prince Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran, said the Iranian government’s reaction exemplifies the ″brutal and arbitrary intolerance that is rampant in Khomeini’s Islamic Republic.″

The statement, however, said the prince was sympathetic to objections to the book.

In conversations with immigrants in the East End’s Brick Lane shops, some cheered the death call. But many said the author, who has canceled a U.S. tour and dropped from sight, should live.

″To kill him is not going to solve the problem,″ said Naim Sheikh, the owner of a shop selling leather goods who called for a law that would prevent such books from being written again.

″There must be some way that governments can approve a resolution that in future no writer should have a right to write against any prophet - Mohammed, Jesus or Moses,″ he said.

Moslems revere Mohammed as the prophet who brought Allah’s revelations to mankind in the Koran, the holy book of Islam.

″But do I personally agree with the ayatollah? It doesn’t matter,″ said Sheikh, one of the many Moslem Bangladeshis living in the Brick Lane area.

″You can’t stop the ayatollah. You can’t stop the people who will do the job ... Anyone who kills Rushdie will become a hero in the Islamic world.″

Like Sheikh, most Moslems acknowledged they haven’t read the book. Most learned about it at one of the five mosques located in a one-square-mile area of this district, from leaflets, or from television reports.

″He insulted our prophet, our religion. From TV we know this,″ said a shopkeeper selling sticky sweets who refused to give his name.

Even though they haven’t read the book, they are sure it insults their prophet and are quick to say so when the novel is mentioned.


″Our older people read it, they say it’s wrong, so we believe them,″ Nassim Khan, a Pakistani Moslem, said as he ate lunch at a modest tandoori restaurant. ″They’ve been studying for years and years and they should know.″

Maqbool Ali-Kassam, waiting for his takeout tea, boomed from across the room: ″Anyone who denies the religion of Islam shall be killed.″

Ali-Kassam, a taxi cab radio controller who calls himself a follower of the ayatollah, said he believes Rushdie deliberately meant to insult Islam.

Dozens of drivers from his company stayed at the office until early Wednesday morning, he said, arguing about the book and the execution order. ″Some said he didn’t mean anything about Islam, others wanted him killed.″

Many Moslems believe Rushdie, 41, insults Mohammed by portraying him as a character called Mahound, a prophet of a city called Jahilia. Mahound was a medieval corruption of the word Mohammed.

They are especially angered by one sequence in which prostitutes are given the names of some of Mohammed’s nine wives and by the book’s implication that Mohammed, not Allah, may have been the real author of the Koran.

Rushdie was born into a Moslem family in Bombay, India, and educated in Cambridge. He lives in London. His novel has sold more than 100,000 copies since it was published in Britain in September to critical acclaim.

″Previously Mohammed has been criticized, but not in this naked way,″ said Abul Khair, a top officer at the Sonali Bank, Bangladesh’s state bank, on Brick Lane. ″It is intolerable for Moslems.″

But he doesn’t agree with the ayatollah. ″We don’t want violence. Islam is a peaceful religion,″ he said.

Restaurant manager Asaad Ramjaun, a Mauritian immigrant, said of Rushdie: ″I think he’s the devil himself.″

″We understand this is a free society, but I think this is freedom of abuse,″ he said. ″But since this is a free society - he shouldn’t be killed. He should be given a chance.″