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British Muslim Leaders Reject Rusdie’s Conversion to Islam

May 4, 1991

LONDON (AP) _ Two Muslim leaders who witnessed Salman Rushdie’s conversion to Islam now say the religious change cannot be accepted because the author has not withdrawn ″The Satanic Verses,″ a newspaper reported Saturday.

The two leaders of London’s Central Mosque, accompanied by dozens of British Muslim scholars, reversed their decision following violent protests from some hard-line worshipers, The Independent reported.

The protests have prevented Sheik Gamal Manna Solaiman and Sheik Hamed Khalifa from leading traditional Friday prayers since Rushdie’s conversion in December.

Hesham El-Essawy, chairman of the Islamic Society for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance, who also witnessed Rushdie’s conversion, said the two leaders had agreed to change their position under ″tremendous pressure from a fanatical minority.″

El-Essawy spoke to Rushdie on Thursday and said the author’s response to the news had been: ″It’s God who knows whether I’m a Muslim or not,″ The Independent said.

Rushdie has been in hiding since Feb. 14, 1989, when the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini sentenced him to death for alleged blasphemy of Islam in his novel ″The Satanic Verses.″

As part of an effort to make amends, Rushdie embraced Islam.

Gamal told The Independent that a statement drawn up by 34 Islamic scholars concludes that Rushdie has not done enough to repent, and cannot be accepted by other Muslims.

″What Salman Rushdie has done (by embracing Islam) has not changed the previous judgment passed on him as an apostate for he has expressed no real and honest repentance translated into good deeds,″ Gamal said.