Embattled novelist Salman Rushdie expressed fear Friday that British support for him and “The Satanic Verses” is waning, and Muslims offended by his novel staged protests in several countries that left one person dead and dozens injured.
The Indian-born British writer, in a call to the office of opposition legislator Paddy Ashdown, said he believes the British government “is beginning to play both ends against the middle,” said a spokeswoman for Ashdown who took the call.
Harriet Smith, the spokeswoman for Ashdown, said Rushdie “expressed concern” about conciliatory remarks by Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe.
The comment by the 41-year-old Rushdie, who disappeared from public after the Iranian leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, sentenced him to death Feb. 14, came a day after Howe acknowledged that “The Satanic Verses” is offensive to Muslims.
Britain had led a diplomatic campaign against Iran after the death threat, and the Foreign Office on Friday denied any weakening in Howe’s position, saying that the government continues to support Rushdie’s right to free expression.
But Iran’s President Ali Khamenei dismissed Howe’s statement as “playing with words.”