Moslems in Britain launch new anti-Rushdie drive


LONDON -- An estimated 20,000 Moslems marched through central London Saturday in a renewed protest of the novel 'The Satanic Verses,' burning an effigy of author Salman Rushdie and calling for his death.

Young militants started the march ahead of schedule at a run, touching off violent incidents, including scuffles between Iranian and Iraqi Moslems at Parliament Square, a Scotland Yard spokesman said.


A total of 101 protesters were arrested, including at least 15 on charges of assaulting police.

'Younger members hurled bottles and rocks at police,' the spokesman said. Six police and one civilian were slightly hurt.

Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner David Meynell blamed the chaos on 'the takeover of the march by 400 to 500 young militant Moslems. It is a matter of mutual regret that the organizers' plans were taken over by young militants.'

The estimated 20,000 Moslems from across England were noisy and at times unruly as they marched from Hyde Park 1 miles to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, bringing much of central London to a grinding halt. Police protected bookstores along the route from attacks.


Protesters carried huge pictures of Iranian spiritual and political leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who decreed Rushdie's death three months ago for writing the novel, which Moslems have said is blasphemous. They waved banners that read, 'Burn, Rushdie, burn,' and 'Hang him high.' A bloody effigy of Rushdie swung beneath a makeshift gallows.

'He will die for Khomeini,' one protestor shouted.

Rushdie, a British citizen, has been in hiding since Feb. 14 when Khomeini ordered the executions of him and his publishers Viking Penguin.

The march became chaotic at Parliament Square, and police in riot gear arrested protesters for assault, obstruction, disorder and a weapons offense, Scotland Yard said.

About 150 people staged a sit-down protest demanding the release of those who had been arrested.

Protesters burned copies of 'The Satanic Verses' and an effigy of Rushdie, portrayed as a devil.

After more than an hour of disarray, participants resumed their planned 3-mile march but were confronted by police in riot gear after they rocked a police bus.

Earlier, the British Moslem Action Front, the association that organized the march, delivered petitions demanding a ban of Rushdie's book, 'The Satanic Verses,' to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's office at 10 Downing Street.


The front also wants a change in the British blasphemy law, which covers only blasphemies against the Protestant Church of England, Britain's state religion.

Groups representing Britain's 2 million Moslems have said the book by the Indian-born author should be banned because it blasphemes their prophet, Mohammed, by suggesting he created the Moslem holy book rather than writing down in the Koran what was dictated to him by God.

Rushdie and his novel have been an extremely sensitive topic for the British government.

Thatcher has refused repeated calls to ban the book, although she said she, too, found it offensive. The book criticizes her government and British society.

The march was coordinated by BMAF founder Maulana Abdal Hussain Choudhury, who said he sent about 6,000 invitations to the march to mosques and Islamic associations in Britain and continental Europe.

Moslems in Bradford, 200 miles north of London, publicly burned a copy of 'The Satanic Verses' Jan. 14 and there have been numerous deaths in riots against the novel in Pakistan and India.

The book has been banned in 24 countries.

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