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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Rushdie title 'may spark attacks'
Protests in the Pakistani city of Quetta against Rushdie's award

Britain's knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie contributes to insulting Islam and may lead to terrorism, a Pakistani minister has said.

Such actions are the root cause of terrorism, Religious Affairs Minister Ejaz-ul-Haq told parliament.

The minister later said he had not meant to condone or incite terrorism but stress its origins.

Pakistan's parliament has condemned the knighthood. Iran says it shows "Islamophobia" among British officials.

Mr ul-Haq was speaking during a session of Pakistan's National Assembly in which it unanimously condemned Britain's award of a knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie and demanded it be withdrawn.

His comments in the Urdu language caused uproar.

"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified," he said, according to the translation by the Reuters news agency.

Sir Salman Rushdie
Sir Salman says he is thrilled by the honour

"If Britain doesn't withdraw the award, all Muslim countries should break off diplomatic relations."

Opponents accused Mr ul-Haq of inciting violence.

Later he returned to the floor of the assembly and said his remarks were not meant to be a justification of suicide attacks.

Mr ul-Haq is a well known Islamic hardliner. He is the son of former President Zia ul-Haq who carried out a process of 'Islamisation' in Pakistan before dying in a plane crash in 1988.

Iran criticism

The resolution passed by the lower house of parliament said that honouring Salman Rushdie "hurt Muslim sentiments".

Sir Salman's book The Satanic Verses sparked protests by Muslims around the world and led to Iran issuing a fatwa in 1989, ordering his execution.

Iran also criticised the knighthood, saying praising the "apostate" showed Islamophobia among British officials.

A spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad would not comment on the parliamentary resolution, but he said the knighthood was a reflection of Mr Rushdie's contribution to literature throughout a long and diverse career.

Like Iran, Pakistan is an Islamic republic with an overwhelmingly Muslim population which saw violent protests against The Satanic Verses in 1989.

Pakistan's parliamentary affairs minister Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, who proposed the resolution, said the knighthood would "encourage people to commit blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad".

The religious bigots really need to get over the Satanic Verses
Paul Gardner, UK

Sir Salman, 59, was one of almost 950 people to appear on the Queen's Birthday Honours list, which is aimed at recognising outstanding achievement.

The controversial Indian-born author's fourth book - The Satanic Verses in 1988 - describes a cosmic battle between good and evil and combines fantasy, philosophy and farce.

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

It was banned in many countries with large Muslim communities and in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's spiritual leader, issued a fatwa.

In 1998, the Iranian government said it would no longer support the fatwa, but some groups have said it is irrevocable.

The following year, Sir Salman returned to public life.

Of his knighthood for services to literature, Rushdie said: "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way."

Pakistan Foreign Ministry condemns Salman Rushdie


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