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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
'Suicide' minister may go to UK
Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul Haq
The minister says he wants to curb extremism
The Pakistani minister who said that the knighthood given to British author Salman Rushdie could justify suicide attacks has said he may visit the UK.

Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul Haq said his visit may happen next month.

He said that extremists could justify suicide attacks because the knighthood insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

An official in the British embassy in Islamabad said that the minister was a regular visitor to Britain, and no steps would be taken to stop him.

A British Foreign Office spokesman in London said no invitation had been issued on its behalf to Mr Haq, and there were no plans to invite him.

'Misunderstandings'

Mr Haq told AFP news agency that he may travel to the UK as part of a delegation invited to discuss the most effective ways of engaging khateebs and imams (sermon deliverers and prayer leaders) in "constructive dialogue".

Protest against Salman Rushdie's knighthood in Lahore
The knighthood has generated anger in Pakistan
"The visit would also help clear many things and misunderstandings about my remarks about the knighting of Salman Rushdie by Britain," the minister said.

Meanwhile, a group of Pakistani Islamic scholars say they have awarded their highest honour to Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in reaction to Britain's knighthood for Salman Rushdie.

The Ulema Council said it had awarded Bin Laden the title of "Saifullah", or "the Sword of Allah".

The country's religious affairs minister - who is the son of Pakistan's former military ruler Zia-ul Haq - said that the itinerary of his visit has not yet been finalised.

Correspondents say Mr Haq met a delegation from Britain on Monday to discuss ways in which the UK could establish better contacts with the Islamic world and combat extremism.

"We are committed to curbing terrorism and extremism in society but the Western world should also play its due role to eradicate these problems," Mr Haq said.

'Blasphemous'

Earlier this week, the British High Commissioner in Pakistan, Robert Brinkley, expressed "deep concern" over Mr Haq's comments about suicide attacks.

Mr Brinkley was summoned to the Pakistani foreign ministry to explain the UK's decision to give the knighthood to the British author, which entitles him to be called Sir Salman.

Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution on Monday condemning the award.

Sir Salman Rushdie
Sir Salman has said he is thrilled by the honour

Sir Salman's book, The Satanic Verses, was published in 1988, and a fatwa against him was issued the following year by Iran's spiritual late leader Ayatollah Khomeini, calling for his execution.

The book describes a cosmic battle between good and evil and combines fantasy, philosophy and farce.

It was condemned by the Islamic world because of its perceived blasphemous depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

The fatwa forced the author to go into hiding for several years.

Sir Salman, 60, was one of almost 950 people to appear on the Queen's Birthday Honours list, which is aimed at recognising outstanding achievement.


SEE ALSO
UK's 'deep concern' over Rushdie
19 Jun 07 |  South Asia
Sir Salman: your thoughts
19 Jun 07 |  South Asia
Rushdie title 'may spark attacks'
18 Jun 07 |  South Asia
Guide to the Honours
15 Jun 07 |  UK

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