Report: Rushdie May Travel to Egypt
LONDON (AP) _ Author Salman Rushdie is expected to emerge from nearly two years of hiding to travel to Egypt early next year at the invitation of Moslem scholars, a British newspaper reported Sunday.
Such a trip would be in defiance of threats by Iranian religious leaders to kill the Indian-born author for allegedly blaspheming Islam in his novel ″The Satanic Verses.″
The report in the weekly Observer newspaper followed Rushdie’s announcement on Dec. 24 that he had embraced Islam and would oppose further translations of his book and prevent a paperback edition.
The Observer reported that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had approved the invitation from Egypt’s minister for Islamic affairs, Dr. Muhammad Mahgoub. It said Rushdie would visit there with leading Moslem scholars.
A Mubarak press spokesman, Mohammed Abdel-Moneim, said in Cairo that he didn’t know of any such invitation, adding Mubarak is ″preoccupied with much more important issues.″
The spokesman said he could not rule out that such an invitation had been made by Mahgoub in his capacity as a Moslem scholar. Mahgoub was not immediately available for comment.
The Observer said the move was welcomed by the spiritual head of Sunni Moslems, Grand Sheik Gad el-Hak. The newspaper quoted him as saying: ″Rushdie should not be held responsible for any sins he may have committed before embracing Islam.″
Rushdie’s supporters expressed disappointment Sunday with his decision to stop further translations and prevent a paperback edition.
Rushdie’s decision was an attempt to persuade Iranian religious leaders to cancel the death sentence, issued by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Feb. 1989. But Iran has rejected Rushdie’s effort.
The Sunday Times reported friends of Rushdie ″reacted with disbelief″ and said their campaign for free speech was ″in tatters.″
″It seems the religious terrorists have won,″ playwright Arnold Wesker was quoted as saying in The Sunday Times of London.
Wesker, a leading member of the Rushdie defense committee, called the development ″incredibly depressing.″
The newspaper quoted Alan Sillitoe, who signed a statement defending Rushdie’s right to express his ideas, as saying:
″The inability to publish the paperback is a blow to writers. It makes you imagine there will be a time when you will have to send books up to Bradford (a northern city with has a large Moslem community) to be stamped in case they have anything offensive in them.″
Writer Fay Weldon, who wrote a booklet defending Rushdie, said she was sad Rushdie appeared to be backing down.
″If you appear to weaken, they advance,″ she said.
However, Frances D’Souza, chairman of the defense committee, told The Sunday Times: ″What an individual does and what he chooses to do in a spiritual sense is his own affair. What we are fighting for is that no person should be condemned to death for expressing an opinion. That issue remains.″
Rushdie, 43, a British national, remains in hiding under police guard. In recent weeks, Rushdie has broken his isolation by several quick visits to bookstores and interviews.
The Independent on Sunday, in a telephone interview with Rushdie, asked him what he would say to those who saw his previous stand for his novel not just as a defense of literature but also an attack on religious intolerance.
″If they see Islam as an enemy, then they are not my friends,″ Rushdie replied.