Protesters burn Rushdie in effigy


NEW YORK -- Thousands of angry protesters demonstrated Saturday outside the offices of 'The Satanic Verses' publisher, the Viking Press, chanting death threats and torching an effigy of author Salman Rushdie.

The crowd, which included many families with young children, reached more than 8,000 at the peak of the four-hour protest, police Capt. George Brown said.


Demonstration organizers estimated the crowd at 20,000.

Despite the angry tone, the demonstration was physically non-violent. About 250 officers were at the scene, police said.

Some of the protesters carried placards reading 'Rush-die Rushdie,' 'Long Live Khomeini' and 'Beware the fury of a patient man.'

Several demonstrators set down pieces of carpet and prayed on the street, while others set up tables selling copies of the Koran, the Islamic holy book.

The protesters beat a crude effigy of Rushdie with sticks and their fists before setting it ablaze to chants of 'Death to Rushdie.'

Earlier this month, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's spiritual leader, called on Moslems to kill Rushdie, whose novel, 'The Satanic Verses,' was deemed blasphemous.

Iranian religious leaders placed a $5 million bounty on Rushdie's head. The Indian-born British author has since gone into hiding under armed guard.


'If anybody will see him, they will kill him. He can't hide forever. He has to die,' said protester Mohammad Ali, 32, a Queens businessman.

'Islam allows freedom but you cannot condemn the prophet,' he added. 'Islam is a very free and very nice religion. Everybody has the right to speak, but you cannot speak bad of any religion in this way.'

The American Muslims Action Committee, one of the organizers of the protest, demanded an immediate halt to publication of the book and an 'unqualified' public apology from the author and its publisher, Viking Press.

Rushdie has apologized for 'the distress' over the book, but not offered to stop its publication.

Organizers of the demonstration also insisted on a recall of all unsold copies of the book from bookstores.

Protester Mir Ali, 34, of Brooklyn, said he came to the demonstration to voice his opposition to the book.

'I am here against 'The Satanic Verses,' which should not be published against Islam,' the graduate student said. 'It insults Islam. It insults the prophet.'

The crowd also marched about 5 blocks down Fifth Avenue to demonstrate outside the Barnes & Noble Bookstore before returning to the ornate white building that houses the book's publisher, Viking Press.


The book was sold out at the store, but a new shipment is expected later in the week, store officials said.

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