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Foreign Minister Finds Book Offensive : Rushdie Fears Loss of Support in Britain

From Associated Press

Novelist Salman Rushdie telephoned a member of Parliament today and expressed concern the government has turned against him in the furor over his novel “The Satanic Verses,” the legislator’s aide said.

Rushdie called opposition lawmaker Paddy Ashdown from hiding and said he is worried about the statement by the foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, that many Britons find the book offensive.

The call was taken by Ashdown’s Irish affairs researcher, Alison Holmes, who summarized the 10-minute conversation.

In an interview broadcast Thursday night, Howe said Muslims are not alone in being offended by the novel, which some say insults Islam.

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“He (Rushdie) was very concerned that the whole thing had gone into a sort of Phase 2, based on Mr. Howe’s comments last night,” Holmes said.

“He was worried that being anti-Tory is now equated with being anti-British, because obviously the government has found that there are some anti-government statements in the book,” she said.

“The book is extremely critical, rude about us,” Howe told the British Broadcasting Corp. “It compares Britain with Hitler’s Germany. We do not like that any more than the people of the Muslim faith like the attacks on their faith contained in the book.”

But Howe said Rushdie should not be punished. The interview was broadcast in Iran by the BBC’s Persian Service.

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