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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Day of Pakistan Rushdie protests
Protest against Salman Rushdie's knighthood in Islamabad

Radical Islamic groups in Pakistan have been staging protests over the UK's decision to confer a knighthood on the author Salman Rushdie.

They have held small-scale demonstrations in the southern port of Karachi, the eastern city of Lahore and in the capital, Islamabad.

Around 300 people in Islamabad chanted "Damn Rushdie" and "Down with Britain".

Sir Salman's 1988 book, The Satanic Verses, was condemned by Islamic states as insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

'Deserve death'

"Giving an award to such a big criminal is an insult to the entire Muslim world," Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, a pro-Taleban cleric and parliamentary opposition leader, said.

Religious leaders across the country echoed his views.

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

"Rushdie hurt the feelings of the Islamic world by writing a blasphemous book. Awarding the knighthood is an attempt to weaken the ongoing dialogue between religions," Liaquat Baloch, parliamentary leader of the radical MMA alliance of religious parties, told the AFP news agency.

The Speaker of the Punjab provincial assembly, Chaudhry Mohammad Afzal Sahi, said that he would kill Sir Salman Rushdie if he came face to face with him.

"Such blasphemers deserve death. Islam does not allow suicide attacks but it would be justified in the case of a blasphemer, who is worthy of death," he said.

Some protesters also called on Pakistan to expel the British high commissioner, a demand which correspondents say is unlikely to be met.

Giving an award to such a big criminal is an insult to the entire Muslim world
Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, Pakistani opposition leader

The chief minister of southern province of Sindh, Arbab Ghulam Rahim, said he was so enraged by the decision to honour Sir Salman that he was returning medals won by his grandfather and other relatives to the British High Commission.

Meanwhile the Pakistani parliament has renewed a call to withdraw for Britain to withdraw the knighthood.

"The British government has not withdrawn the title which has not only disappointed the entire Pakistani nation but has also hurt it," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi told the assembly.

"This august house again calls on the British government and its Prime Minister Tony Blair to immediately withdraw the title... and tender an apology to the Muslim world."

'Clear misunderstandings'

Britain has defended the knighthood - which entitles the author to be known as Sir Salman - arguing that it upholds free speech and is part of its desire to honour Muslims in the British community.

Protests called by religious and militant groups have also been held in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a shutdown is being observed in the capital Srinagar and other towns.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says that shops in most parts of the capital are closed and traffic has been affected.

On Thursday, a group of Pakistani Islamic scholars said they had awarded their highest honour to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in reaction to the British move.

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

The Pakistani religious affairs minister said that he hoped to go to the UK soon to help "clear misunderstandings" about the Rushdie affair.

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

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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