- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan yesterday condemned Britain’s award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, and a Cabinet minister said the honor provided a justification for suicide attacks.

“This is an occasion for the [world’s] 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision,” Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, said in parliament.

“The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the ‘sir’ title,” Mr. ul-Haq said.

Mr. Rushdie said yesterday he was honored to be knighted, but he had no comment on the anger generated among Muslims.

“I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honor and am very grateful that my work has been recognized in this way,” Mr. Rushdie said in a statement issued by his agent in New York, where he resides.

In Washington, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, neither official mentioned the Rushdie resolution in public comments, and reporters did not raise the issue.

The meeting focused on rising violence in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf faces widespread opposition to his eight-year rule over his dismissal of the chief justice of the nation’s highest court.

In the eastern city of Multan, hard-line Muslim students burned effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Mr. Rushdie. About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, “Kill him. Kill him.”

Britain announced the knighthood for the author of “The Satanic Verses” in an honors list timed for the official celebration of the queen’s 81st birthday.

Lawmakers in Pakistan’s lower house of parliament yesterday passed a resolution proposed by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, who branded Mr. Rushdie a “blasphemer.” Mr. Rushdie was born in India into a Muslim family.

“The ‘sir’ title from Britain for blasphemer Salman Rushdie has hurt the sentiments of the Muslims across the world. Every religion should be respected. I demand the British government immediately withdraw the title as it is creating religious hatred,” Mr. Niazi told the National Assembly.

Lawmakers voted unanimously for the resolution, although one opposition member, Khwaja Asif, said it exposed a contradiction in the government’s policy as an ally of Britain in the international war on terrorism.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Mr. Rushdie’s knighthood would hamper interfaith understanding and that Islamabad would protest to London.

“We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him. This we feel is insensitive and we would convey our sentiments to the British government.”

Iran on Sunday condemned the knighthood for Mr. Rushdie.

Iran’s late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989 issued a fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author because, the ayatollah said, “The Satanic Verses” insulted Islam. The threat forced Mr. Rushdie to live in hiding for a decade.

The British High Commission in Islamabad defended the decision to honor Mr. Rushdie — one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century whose 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for “Midnight’s Children” in 1981.

Sir Salman’s honor is richly deserved and the reasons for it are self-explanatory,” said spokesman Aidan Liddle.

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