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Russian Faces Death Threats for Article on ‘satanic Verses’

Nearly a decade after author Salman Rushdie received an Islamic death sentence for writing “The Satanic Verses,” a Moscow journalist has received death threats for an article he wrote about the book.

During the past several weeks, Yuri Buyda, a journalist for the daily Izvestia, received anonymous phone calls saying he and his family would be killed if the article were published.

The anonymous caller claimed he was speaking on behalf of an obscure group calling itself Military Islam.

Russian security officials put the journalist under surveillance and wiretapped his telephone in an effort to locate the caller.

Izvestia ran Buyda’s article last Friday.

After Iran’s late spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death sentence on the author of the 1988 novel — which Islamic leaders said slandered the prophet Mohammed — several individuals involved in translating and publishing the book were killed, including the novel’s Italian, Japanese and Norwegian translators.

Rushdie has remained in hiding since the death edict was issued, making only a few surprise public appearances.

Buyda said he was terrified by the threats.

“The man told me I was a propagandist, that I was advocating anti-Islamic literature,” he said in an interview.

The article in Izvestia coincided with news that the first Russian translation of the controversial book by the Indian-born British author would be published next month by a Russian publishing house.

But a spokesman for Rushdie’s London publisher said a decision had not yet been finalized about a Russian translation.

Meanwhile, Islamic leaders in Russia criticized the death threats, but said the translation would not be welcome.

Marat Murtazin, director of the Moscow High Islamic College, said, “Discriminating against the journalist is absolutely wrong.”

Murtazin added that if a translation of the book were published in Russia, it would “come as a serious affront to all who uphold the Muslim faith.”

There are some 15 million Muslims in Russia — about 10 percent of the country’s total population.

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