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Malaysians, Taliban rally against Britain

Chanting "Destroy Salman Rushdie" and "Destroy Britain", some 30 members of Malaysia's hardline Islamic party urge Britain to withdraw the honour.

world Updated: Jun 20, 2007 16:58 IST

Supporters of Malaysia's hardline Islamic party protested outside the British embassy on Wednesday against the award of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses outraged Muslims worldwide.

Chanting "Destroy Salman Rushdie" and "Destroy Britain", some 30 members of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia urged Britain to withdraw the honour or risk the consequences.

"This has tainted the whole knighthood, the whole hall of fame of the British system," party treasurer Hatta Ramli told reporters after the party handed a protest note to embassy officials.

"The British government must be responsible because it has created a sudden feeling of anger not just on Salman Rushdie but on the British government," he said. "They have to bear the consequences." he said.

About 40 policemen, including a dozen armed with batons, stood by. A spokesman at the British High Commission was not immediately available for comment.

Rushdie, whose book prompted late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a 1989 fatwa death warrant against him for blasphemy, was awarded a knighthood last week for services to literature in Queen Elizabeth's birthday honours list.

On Tuesday, Muslim countries Iran and Pakistan summoned top British envoys to protest against the award. Small protests have taken place in several Pakistani cities.

Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents also condemned the knighthood for the "apostate" British writer, who was born into a Muslim family in India in 1947.

"We ... consider this another major affront to Islam by the infidels," said a Taliban spokesman, reading a statement from the group's leadership council over the telephone.

Afghanistan's Western-backed government has not commented on the award and there have been no protests.

The 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 Mohammad and ridiculed the Koran and events in early Muslim history.

In 1998, Iran's government formally distanced itself from the original fatwa, which had forced Rushdie into hiding for nine years. But hardline groups in Iran regularly renew the call for his murder, saying Khomeini's fatwa is irrevocable.