Film Writers Hit Chains' Removal of 'Satanic Verses'

Times Staff Writer

Angered by the response of major bookstores to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's call for the murder of author Salman Rushdie, hundreds of Hollywood writers are contributing to the costs of a full-page ad in a national newspaper.

The advertisement--expected to appear in the Wall Street Journal next week--will voice the writers' objections to the Ayatollah's action, as well as a decision by two major bookstore chains to drop Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses."

"We think any book chain that bows in any respect to a demand from a foreign power that has the effect of violating the American Constitution and the rights of Americans is cowardly and destructive to our laws and our values," said TV and film writer Worley Thorne, one of those organizing the effort.

"We want to make very clear that this is not an attack on Muslims or others," Thorne added. "We don't believe the Ayatollah represents the Islamic world."

This latest effort follows on the heels of a formal protest issued by the Writers Guild of America earlier this week, condemning Khomeini's threats and asking the book chains not to succumb to "the tyranny of threats."

The guild also joined with other writers' groups in sending a letter of protest to Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. In addition, the Writers Guild of America, East issued a letter of complaint to B. Dalton/Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks--the two chains that dropped the books from their shelves after expressing concern for the safety of their employees.

"Most of us feel a rising anger about it because no one in government seems to be standing up to counter the threats," said Hollywood writer Hall Powell.

Writers likened the situation to the protest of Christian fundamentalists last year over the controversial film, "The Last Temptation of Christ." But, said Josh Baran, who handled publicity for the film, there is one key difference between those protests and the Ayatollah's statements: "Fundamentalist Christians are not murderers."

"We have received numerous calls over the weekend from writers all over the country who are outraged by this assault on a sacred principle of democracy," said Brian Walton, executive director of the Western branch of the Writers Guild.

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