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Rushdie Answers Muslim Leaders Who Questioned His Conversion

May 9, 1991

LONDON (AP) _ Author Salman Rushdie today hit back at two Islamic leaders who have ruled that his conversion to Islam cannot be accepted because he has not withdrawn his novel ″The Satanic Verses.″

″I am a Muslim. This is a matter of conscience and it is not for any human being to question it,″ Rushdie wrote in a letter to the London daily, The Independent. ″I am not answerable to them in this matter.″

He added that the ″so-called ulema (Muslim scholars) to whose ‘judgment’ the two ... have apparently acceded should also know better than to play God.″

The Independent reported May 4 that Sheik Gamal Manna Solaiman and Sheik Hamed Khalifa of London’s Central Mosque, who witnessed and accepted Rushdie’s embrace of Islam in December, now question the author’s conversion.

The Independent quoted Gamal as saying that a statement by 34 Islamic scholars concluded that Rushdie has not done enough to repent for writing ″The Satanic Verses,″ and cannot be accepted by other Muslims.

Rushdie has ″expressed no real and honest repentance translated into good deeds,″ Gamal said.

The two leaders’ admission of Rushdie to the religious fold in December angered hard-line Muslims at the Central Mosque. Neither has since been able to lead prayers on Fridays without provoking violent protests from some worshipers.

Rushdie said in his letter to The Independent that the two ″have plainly been intimidated by the bully-boy tactics used against them in recent months.″

Rushdie has been in hiding since Feb. 14, 1989, when Iran’s late leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ordered his execution for alleged blasphemy in ″The Satanic Verses.″

The author has agreed to suspend plans to publish the novel in paperback but refuses to withdraw the hardback version.

In his letter, Rushdie said that ″to withdraw the novel would be to bring the controversy back to fever pitch...and brand every Muslim in Britain...as being guilty of censorship by intimidation.″

He concluded with a plea ″to put this old quarrel behind us.″

″The devastation of Bangladesh, the killings in Kashmir, the continuing catastrophe in the Kurdish and Shia regions of Iraq: that’s where our attention should be.″

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