Muslims say reaction no surprise to Britain

Pakistan’s foreign minister said yesterday that Britain should not be surprised by the violent reaction in the Muslim world to the knighthood awarded to writer Salman Rushdie.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, in Washington to meet with top administration officials and lawmakers, said Britain must have “found the reaction predictable. I don’t think they are surprised” that Muslims are angry about the honor given to a writer whom many accuse of blasphemy.

Mr. Kasuri, in an interview with the Associated Press, said the award will damage interfaith harmony.

“The holy prophet has a certain position among all Muslims. When we talk of a globalized world, we have to be sensitive to each others’ concerns,” he said.

His comments came as Pakistan’s government summoned the British ambassador to protest Mr. Rushdie’s knighthood. Protesters burned effigies of Mr. Rushdie and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

On Monday, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the knighthood and a Cabinet minister said the honor provided a justification for suicide attacks.

“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,” Religious Affairs Minister Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq told the Pakistani parliament.

Britain told Pakistan yesterday that it was deeply concerned by the minister’s statement.

Ambassador Robert Brinkley, Britain’s high commissioner to Pakistan, conveyed the message after Pakistan’s government summoned him to protest the knighthood.

Mr. Kasuri, the foreign minister, said in Washington he could not comment on the remarks by his country’s religious affairs minister because he had not read them. But he said he had been told that the minister had said something else. He did not elaborate.

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

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