Donald Kaag, a conservative columnist for the Moscow Idahonian newspaper, said he intends to go on with plans for a public reading of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" despite an implied death threat he received Thursday.
Kaag said just before noon he answered his phone and a man inquired, "Is this Don Kaag?"Kaag said he replied in the affirmative and the caller went on: "I have read your yesterday's column, and I tell you that people who attack the Ayatollah Khomeini and support the blasphemer may suffer the same fate. You had better be careful."
Kaag said he told the man "to go to hell" and hung up. He said the caller was male and spoke with an accent Kaag identified as Arabic.
A spokesman for Latah County Sheriff Ken Buxton said an investigation was under way Friday.
In a column in Wednesday's Idahonian, Kaag criticized the Khomeini government in Iran for setting a bounty on Rushdie and publishers and booksellers of the British author's "The Satanic Verses," which contains references to the prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, that some Moslems consider blasphemous.
Kaag wrote of Khomeini: "Friends and neighbors, a demented and medieval-minded religious fanatic in a land populated largely by sheep and goats has abrogated our constitutional rights as Americans."
In the column, Kaag issued an invitation for anyone with a copy of "The Satanic Verses" to contact him to see about renting a hall and conducting a public reading of the book in protest of Khomeini's attempts to stifle its distribution.
James Shelledy, editor and publisher of the Idahonian, and Peter Harriman, editorial page editor, said Friday that they considered any threat against Kaag "a direct threat against the newspaper, all of its employees and the founding principles of this nation. Neither Kaag nor this newspaper will be cowed by this sort of demented cowardice."
Kaag said at least a half-dozen people, including Shelledy and Harriman, have offered to join him in his planned reading, which he hopes to conduct at Moscow's community center.