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British Muslim Leader Who Backed Rushdie Death Threat Dies at 62

April 19, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ British Muslim leader Kalim Siddiqui, who backed Iran’s call for the assassination of writer Salman Rushdie, has died of a heart attack during a visit to South Africa. He was 62.

Siddiqui, who had heart bypass surgery last June, was the leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, an unelected, 150-member organization of British Muslims. Despite its name, it has no legislative powers.

The group said Siddiqui died in Pretoria on Thursday while attending a conference. It did not give a cause of death.

``He was a great leader who was loved and respected by millions of people all over the world,″ said Muhammad Ghayasuddin, spokesman for the group.

Some British legislators had called for Siddiqui to be charged with incitement to murder after he said in a 1993 radio program about Rushdie: ``We will just break every bone in his body.″ He was not prosecuted.

The Indian-born British writer went into hiding in 1989 after Iran’s late spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued his call for his death. Muslims say his book ``The Satanic Verses″ is blasphemous. Iranian sources backed Khomeini’s call by offering a $1 million bounty for the assassination of Rushdie.

Iranian officials have recently indicated that their government won’t hunt Rushdie down, but Siddiqui said last month that the death command ``was and remains an order that must be carried out.″

Siddiqui had worked as a journalist in Britain from 1954 until 1972, when he quit to work full-time for British Muslim causes.

He has three surviving children, but the group gave no information on his wife. No details of funeral arrangements were given.

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