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Central & South Asia
Clerics to honour Osama bin Laden
Al-Qaeda leader to be awarded title in response to Salman Rushdie's knighthood.
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2007 14:43 GMT
Hundreds of Pakistanis have  protested
against Rushdie's knighthood [EPA]

A group of Pakistani religious leaders led by a pro-Taliban figure has said it will bestow a title on Osama bin Laden in response to Britain's decision to grant a knighthood to Salman Rushdie.
 
Allama Tahir Ashrafi, head of the Pakistan Ulema Council, said on Thursday that the group would give bin Laden the title Saifullah.
The name means "Sword of God" and would be given to the al-Qaeda leader for "serving Muslims by waging jihad against infidels".
 
Ashrafi said: "If Britain can give a knighthood to Rushdie, we too have the right to make awards to our leaders and heroes."
He said that while he was not in contact with bin Laden, the award would reach the fugitive al-Qaeda chief "at an appropriate time".

Ashrafi said his group represented more than 3,000 religious leaders. However, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan's religious affairs minister, said he was not familiar with the group.
 
Tensions

Ul-Haq has stirred tensions by suggesting the knighthood could justify suicide attacks and undermine Pakistan's effort against "terrorism".

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On Thursday, he said he would travel to Britain soon to meet Muslim scholars and promote interfaith harmony.

Religious parties in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim state of 160 million people, have called for nationwide protests on Friday to condemn Britain for bestowing the honour on Rushdie.

On Thursday, about 200 people rallied in the eastern city of Multan chanting "We are ready to die for Prophet Muhammad's honour" and "Down with Britain".

Pakistan, a close ally of Britain and the US, has condemned the knighthood for Rushdie, who has been accused of insulting Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses.

Protesters have burned effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth II on the streets of Pakistani cities and demanded that Britain take back the award - a request London has refused.
Source:
Agencies
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