Novelist Salman Rushdie telephoned a member of Parliament Friday and expressed concern the government has turned against him in the furor over his novel "The Satanic Verses," the legislator's aide said.
Rushdie called opposition lawmaker Paddy Ashdown from hiding and said he was worried about the statement by the foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, that many Britons find the book offensive.The call was taken by Ashdown's Irish affairs researcher, Alison Holmes, who summarized the 10-minute conversation to The Associated Press.
In an interview broadcast earlier, Howe said Moslems are not alone in being offended by the novel, which some say insults Islam.
"He (Rushdie) was very concerned that the whole thing had gone into a sort of phase 2, based on Mr. Howe's comments last night," Holmes said.
"He was worried that being anti-Tory is now equated with being anti-British, because obviously the government has found that there are some anti-government statements in the book," she said.
Anti-Rushdie protests Friday in India and Bangladesh left at least one person dead and more than 100 injured. Bomb threats were reported at two mosques in Paris, and a Moslem group in France vowed to kill the writer.
"The book is extremely critical, rude about us," Howe told the British Broadcasting Corp. "It compares Britain with Hitler's Germany. We do not like that any more than the people of the Moslem faith like the attacks on their faith contained in the book."
But Howe said Rushdie should not be punished. The interview was broadcast in Iran by the BBC's Persian Service.
In separate statements later in the northern city of Birmingham, Howe said Britain cannot have normal relations with Iran until the death sentence is revoked. Iran vowed that Britain will be the one to back down.
The 41-year-old Rushdie is a fierce critic of Britain's colonial past and of what he views as prejudice among whites toward minority ethnic immigrants in Britain.
Holmes said Rushdie gave no indication where he was calling from and declined her invitation to leave a phone number where Ashdown could reach him.