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Pak summons British envoy over Rushdie

world Updated: Jun 19, 2007 21:12 IST
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Pakistan on Tuesday summoned the British high commissioner in Islamabad to its Foreign Ministry and lodged a strong protest against the knighting of Salman Rushdie, amid growing anger over the issue in the country.

"The British High Commissioner Robert Brinkley was told that Pakistanis and Muslims around the world resent the awarding of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam told DPA.

"Conferring a knighthood on a controversial person whose offensive writings outdo his literary services is really deplorable," she said adding that the decision was an "unnecessary incitement".

Earlier, the upper house of the Pakistani parliament and the provincial assembly of North-West Frontier Province condemned Saturday's announcement from London about the knighting of Rushdie, whose late 1980s novel "The Satanic Verses" sparked angry protests in Pakistan and other Muslim countries around the world.

"The knighthood award for Rushdie is an insult to the Muslims," said parliamentary leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, Waseem Sajjad, while moving the resolution in the Senate, the upper house of parliament.

"This is a time to create better understanding between people of different faiths and promote interfaith. Such steps as granting a knighthood to Salaman Rusdhie will create further clearages in relations between the West and Islam," the motion says.

The two resolutions were approved unanimously and also demanded immediate withdrawal of Rushdie's new title of "sir".

The lower house National Assembly and the assemblies of Punjab and Sindh provinces denounced the knighthood on Monday, while Pakistan's Minister for Religious Affairs Ijaz-ul-Haq warned that the decision to award Rushdie a knighthood could provoke Muslims to carry out suicide attacks.

Dozens of radical Muslims held protest rallies in the provincial capital of Punjab, Lahore. They burned an effigy of the British queen and chanted "Death for Rushdie." The religious alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal, called for further demonstrations across the country on Friday.

The denunciation of Rushdie's knighting was also echoed by the Muslim community abroad with the Pakistani-born British peer from the Labour Party, Lord Nazir Ahmed, terming the award a provocative move.

"This is the same way of crusade that Tony Blair has adopted for years," he told Geo news channel from London, adding that the decision would further alienate the Muslim community in Britain.

Rushdie, an Indian-born British novelist, was forced to go into hiding for years after the spiritual leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a death sentence against the author for blasphemy in a fatwa in 1989.

The fatwa was put aside in 2001 by Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami, who said the country had no intention of carrying out the sentence. However, the Iranian government on Saturday also condemned the knighthood.

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