President Bush, denouncing firebombings that may be linked to Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel “The Satanic Verses,” warned today he will not tolerate violent protests in the United States.
“This country was founded on the principles of free speech and religious tolerance,” Bush told reporters during a question-and-answer session following a Cabinet meeting.
“I want to make it perfectly clear the United States will not tolerate any assault on these rights,” Bush said.
The offices of an outspoken New York City weekly newspaper were heavily damaged by a firebomb early today along with two bookstores in Berkeley, Calif.
“We don’t yet know if the bombings are related to the book ‘The Satanic Verses,’ ” Bush said, “but let me be clear, anyone undertaking acts of intimidation or violence aimed at the author, the publishers or the distributors of ‘The Satanic Verses’ will be prosecuted to the maximum.”
Bush said he was directing Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh to determine whether any federal laws had been violated in the incidents.
The Riverdale Press in New York City had run an editorial endorsing the novel.
Rushdie’s execution has been ordered by Iran’s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who alleges the book defames the prophet Mohammed.
At least 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured in Muslim demonstrations throughout the world against the book. Another 25 people were injured in the Indian city of Srinagar today in a second day of anti-Rushdie violence.
Iran’s call for Muslims to kill Rushdie has outraged many Western countries and provoked the recall of top diplomats by the European Community members and others.
The Iranian Parliament today voted to cut ties with Britain, where the Indian-born Rushdie lives, unless it declares within a week “its opposition to the unprincipled stands against the world of Islam, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the contents of the anti-Islamic book ‘The Satanic Verses.’ ”