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Protests flare over Rushdie honour
British foreign secretary regrets the furore over the author's knighthood.
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2007 14:09 GMT

Rushdie's Satanic Verses upset many
Muslims when it was published [EPA]

Protesters have taken to the streets in Pakistan and Malaysia to denounce a British knighthood for author Salman Rushdie, whose novel the Satanic Verses outraged Muslims worldwide.
 
Margaret Beckett, Britain's foreign secretary, said on Wednesday that Britain was "sorry" people were upset about the knighthood.
However, she said it was awarded to Rushdie for his literary achievements.
 
Beckett said: "Obviously we are sorry for people who have taken very much to heart this honour, which is after all for a life-long body of literary work."
Afghanistan's Taliban on Wednesday also condemned the knighthood, which Britain's Queen Elizabeth awarded to the Indian-born British writer last week.
 
A Taliban spokesman said: "We ... consider this another major affront to Islam by the infidels."
 
Pakistani anger
 
There was widespread condemnation for the knighting in Pakistan and several leaders called for Rushdie's death, while protesters demanded Britain withdraw the honour.
 
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Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister, condemned remarks by Ijaz-ul Haq, the religious affairs minister, who had said a suicide attack against Rushdie was justified.
 
Haq had said that the Rushdie honour merited such an attack by Muslims, but later withdrew the comment insisting that he meant to say that the award to Rushdie would foster extremism.
 
Bhutto said that although the knighthood awarded to Rushdie had outraged the sentiments of Muslims, Islam did not permit murder and nor did the law allow suicide killings for those with divergent views.
 
'Fostering extremism'
 
"He is condemned to death [and]whosoever is in position to kill him, he should do so"

Abdul Rashid Ghazi, imam at Islamabad's Red Mosque
Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a Pakistan opposition leader, at a rally of about 200 women outside parliament in the capital Islamabad, said: "This is an attempt to provoke Muslims all over the world."
 
Rushdie's book, Satanic Verses, prompted protests, some violent, by Muslims in many countries after it was published in 1988. Muslims say the novel blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad and ridiculed the Quran and events in early Muslim history.
 
Robert Brinkley, British high commissioner to Pakistan, said on Monday that Rushdie's knighthood was a reflection of his contribution to literature and was not intended as an insult to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.
 
But on Tuesday, Pakistan summoned Brinkley to protest against the award. Britain's envoy in Iran was also summoned.
 
In Islamabad, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, a religious leader at the capital's Red Mosque, said in a statement that Rushdie should be killed.
 
He said: "He is condemned to death. Whosoever is in position to kill him, he should do so."
 
In the central Pakistani city of Multan, about 300 people chanted "Death to the British Queen" and "Death to Rushdie".
 
They burned a British flag and effigies of Queen Elizabeth and Rushdie.
 
Several hundred people including members of the provincial parliament protested in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
 
The Pakistani parliament had adopted a resolution on Monday deploring the knighthood.
 
UK 'values'
 
John Reid, Britain's home secretary, reiterated on Wednesday that the government stood by the award.
 
Several hundred protested against
the honour in Lahore [Reuters]
He said: "I think we have a set of values that accrues people honours for their contribution to literature even when they don't agree with our point of view.
 
"That's our way and that's what we stand by."
 
In Malaysia, about 30 protesters demonstrated outside the British embassy in Kuala Lumpur chanting "Destroy Salman Rushdie" and "Destroy Britain".
 
The late Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a death warrant against Rushdie in 1989, forcing him into hiding for nine years.
 
In 1998 Iran's government formally distanced itself from the death warrant, but some groups in Iran have regularly renewed the call for his death, saying Khomeini's ruling is irrevocable.
Source:
Agencies
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