In Chicago, Amer Haleen, editor of Islamic Horizons magazine, said, "The next step would be for Rushdie to put his talents to use in a way that would induce understanding and togetherness, rather than hate."
In contrast to Muslim leaders who want the book withdrawn, Mehdi urged Americans to read "The Satanic Verses," saying they will find it "dull, tedious and unreadable."
Born to a wealthy Muslim family in Bombay, the 41-year-old Rushdie came to Britain as schoolboy at age 14. He is now a British citizen and has described himself as a lapsed Muslim.
His complex, allegorical novel about immigration and religion was termed by one British reviewer as "a sort of 'Last Temptation of Mohammed,' " in the spirit of the controversial Greek book and American film, "The Last Temptation of Christ."
Muslim critics contend that it blasphemes Islam, the Prophet Mohammed and the Koran, Islam's holy book.
The release of Rushdie's apology reportedly followed a lengthy meeting between the author and his publishers, Viking Penguin. A few days ago, Rushdie was defiant about the angry protests against him. "Frankly, I wish I had written a more critical book," he said in a television interview just before he went into hiding. " . . . It seems to me Islamic fundamentalists could do with a little criticism right now."
The furor continued to escalate, however, and by week's end, distribution of the book was sharply curtailed in much of Europe and North America.
The two biggest U.S. bookstore chains ordered "The Satanic Verses" off of their display shelves, and Canada temporarily halted shipments of the book at the border, pending resolution of a complaint that it violates a legal ban on hate literature.
Banned in Some Countries
The book has been officially barred in a number of countries with large Muslim populations, including Iran, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and South Africa. Publishers in France, West Germany, Greece and Turkey have decided against bringing it out.
Rushdie's apology was welcomed by some Muslim moderates in Britain.
"We very much welcome Mr. Rushdie's apology and hope that it will now pave the way out of this unfortunate crisis," the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance said in a statement.
"If Salman Rushdie has apologized, we hope God will forgive him," said Mac Choudhury, a spokesman for the Muslim Bangladeshi community of Manchester, in the north of Britain. "Rushdie has done a great deal of harm. But we also hope that people will forgive him as well."
Others here were appalled at the way the whole affair was handled. "It seems very sad to me that Mr. Rushdie, as a British citizen, has had to make such an apology, which implies either the withdrawal of all the copies of that book throughout the world or an expunging of any comments which are not acceptable to Khomeini," said Martin Flannery, a Labor Party member of Parliament.
Flannery told Britain's Press Assn. news service that "this puts British people in a position in which they should not be put, and it is to be hoped that our government makes it absolutely clear that threats of murder are totally unacceptable to our government and to our people."
Times staff writer Terry Pristin, in Los Angeles, contributed to this story.
The following is the text of author Salman Rushdie's statement issued Saturday in London:
'As author of "The Satanic Verses," I recognize that Muslims in many parts of the world are genuinely distressed by the publication of my novel.
I profoundly regret the distress that publication has occasioned to sincere followers of Islam.
Living as we do in a world of many faiths, this experience has served to remind us that we must all be conscious of the sensibilities of others.'