Salman Rushdie said Tuesday the furor caused by his book "The Satanic Verses" shows Moslem fundamentalist leaders in a bad light and makes him wish he had been more critical.

"Frankly, I wish I had written a more critical book," he told CBS "This Morning." "I mean, a religion that claims, that is able to behave like this; religious leaders, let's say, who are able to behave like this, and then say that this is a religion which must be above any kind of whisper or criticism, that doesn't add up."He added: "It seems to me that Islamic fundamentalists could do with a little bit of criticism right now."

Rushdie said he regrets the violence caused by opposition to his book, but denied that it was blasphemous, as some Moslems contend. "It's not true that this book is a blasphemy against Islam. I doubt very much that (Ayatollah Ruhollah) Khomeini or anybody else in Iran has read the book or more than selected extracts taken out of context.

"Obviously it's horrifying that people are willing to proceed in this way against what is, after all, one novel in the face of the entire history of Islam."

Asked how he reacts to a death threat from Khomeini, Rushdie said: "I think I have to take them very seriously indeed." On Tuesday Khomeini called for the death of the Indian-born British author.

Rushdie told ABC "Nightline" on Monday night: "The blood is on the hands of people who inflame the feelings of people who unfortunately have not and cannot read the book . . .

"The idea that this is somehow an attack on the religion shows an absolute failure to understand what fiction is," he said.

Of the novel itself, Rushdie told CBS: "The sad thing is, of course, the book isn't really about Islam. It's about migration and metamorphosis and all sorts of things. There's one section where there are two dream sequences in the book, in which what I've tried to do is write about the birth of a religion which obviously is like Islam, but is a fictional departure from Islam, and in that I've done it from a secular point of view.

"If you can't believe in the literal truth of God transmitting words to a prophet . . . then it seems to be a legitimate fictional exercise to say what's really happening, what goes on, what is the nature of revelation? How does a religion come into the world, what compromises does it face, is it tolerant or intolerant?"