NEW YORK (AP) _ The B. Dalton bookstore chain on Friday ordered its 1,250 stores to pull Salman Rushdie’s novel ″The Satanic Verses″ from display shelves.
″We have never before pulled a book off our shelves,″ Leonard Riggio, chief executive officer, said in a statement. ″It is regrettable that a foreign government has been able to hold hostage our most sacred First Amendment principle.″
The announcement came a day after Waldenbooks, another huge chain, ordered copies of the the book off store shelves because of the threat of violence from Moslems outraged because they say the book blasphemes the prophet Mohammed.
Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini has called for the death of Rushdie, a 41-year- old British author who was born into a Moslem family in India. Iranian religious leaders have offered a $5.2 million bounty. But on Friday Iran’s president said Rushdie might save his life with an apology.
The B. Dalton statement said, ″Under these extraordinary circumstances, the safety of our employees and patrons must take precedence.″ A publicist for the chain, Richard Mulieri, would not say whether the chain had received any specific threats.
He also would not say if the book would not be sold or simply would not be displayed. ″We don’t want to go beyond the statement,″ he said.
The statement said the order applied to 800 B. Dalton stores, 250 Barnes & Noble stores and 200 licensed stores in supermarkets. The Waldenbooks order applied to 1,200 stores.
Meanwhile, the U.S. publisher of the novel closed its offices and gave employees the day off Friday after receiving several bomb threats, authorities said.
Siri Huntoon, who said she worked in Viking Penguin Inc.’s production department, said company officials made their 100 employees leave the building in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon after a bomb threat was made.
″Everyone up there is working under a lot of stress, whether you really believe something will happen or not, just the stress of having bomb scares is enough,″ said Miss Huntoon.
The doors of the six-story building were locked, and 14 city police stood outside Friday, when a demonstration by the Islamic People’s Movement was planned. Only a handful of demonstrators showed up.
Security guards opened the door to people working on other floors but refused to let anyone on the fifth floor, which is occupied by Viking.
Officer Joe Gallagher, a police spokesman, said two telephone bomb threats were made to company officials this week. He said seven have been made since December, when copies of Rushdie’s book began trickling into U.S. bookstores.
Outcry over the statement continued Friday as the governments of West Germany and Spain condemned the Iranian campaign. Publishers in France, West Germany, Greece and Turkey, however, said they decided not to publish the book, and the Greek publishers said they would postpone its release out of fear for their lives.
Rushdie canceled a scheduled U.S. tour and is said to be in hiding somewhere in Great Britain.
The Stamford, Conn.-based Waldenbooks decided to pull the book from public display on Thursday after several store managers received death threats.
″Waldenbooks has fought long and hard against censorship, but when it comes to the safety of Waldenbooks employees and our customers, we must act responsibly in their interests,″ the company said in a statement. The book remains available in Waldenbooks stores but is not being prominently displayed.
The Authors Guild, a national organization of 6,500 book authors, sent telegrams to Waldenbooks and B. Dalton urging them to rescind the order, executive director Helen Stephenson said Friday.
″At a time when freedom of expression is under threat, it is imperative that all publishers, authors and booksellers stand together against this despicable form of intimidation and censorship,″ the telegram to Waldenbooks said.
The New York-based guild also wired the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations to call for the removal of death threats against Rushdie, saying he must be allowed ″to present his views without fear of reprisal or threats of death.″
Suzanne Mead of Encore Books, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based chain of 47 stores in the mid-Atlantic region, said the chain is considering whether to follow Waldenbooks. She said its not an immediate concern since they have practically sold out of the couple of hundred copies of ″The Satanic Verses″ they had.
Sales were reported brisk at many stores. Viking Penguin began a second printing of the book last week. The first run was 50,000 copies.
Moslems condemned the book when it was published late last year to critical acclaim in the West. The more recent protests began Sunday with demonstrations in Pakistan. Moslems say ″The Satanic Verses″ blasphemes their religion by, among other things, portraying the prophet Mohammed’s wives as prostitutes and suggesting that he wrote the Koran, the holy book of Islam, rather than receiving it from God.
Rushdie has said the novel is fictional and not blasphemous.