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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
UK's 'deep concern' over Rushdie
Protests in the Pakistani city of Quetta against Rushdie's award

The UK's envoy to Pakistan has expressed "deep concern" over comments by a Pakistani minister about Sir Salman Rushdie's knighthood.

Religious Affairs Minister Mohammad Ejaz ul-Haq's comments were widely seen as justifying suicide attacks because Sir Salman had insulted Islam.

But High Commissioner Robert Brinkley said it was untrue that the knighthood was intended to insult Islam.

Sir Salman's book The Satanic Verses sparked worldwide protests in 1989.

'Blasphemous book'

Mr Brinkley was summoned to the Pakistani foreign ministry in Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon.

A spokesman for Mr Brinkley said he "made clear the British government's deep concern at what the minister for religious affairs was reported to have said".

Sir Salman Rushdie
I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way
Sir Salman Rushdie

"The British government is very clear that nothing can justify suicide bomb attacks," the spokesman added.

Mr Brinkley was summoned so that Pakistan could protest against Britain's "utter lack of sensitivity" in knighting Sir Salman, the foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Mr Brinkley was told that the honour countered attempts by both countries to build mutual understanding.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the diplomatic row is heated but that so far it has stayed mostly within official circles.

Pakistan's national parliament passed a resolution on Monday condemning the award. The assembly of the North West Frontier Province passed a similar resolution on Tuesday.

If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified
Pakistan Religious Affairs Minister Mohammad Ejaz ul-Haq

There have been some street protests but only by small numbers of hard line Islamist activists.

A fatwa against Sir Salman was issued in 1989 in Iran, calling for his execution.

Iranian conservatives on Tuesday criticised Britain's Queen Elizabeth over the decision to confer the knighthood on Mr Rushdie.

"Salman Rushdie has turned into a hated corpse which cannot be resurrected by any action," First Deputy Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar told Iran's parliament.

"The action by the British Queen in knighting Salman Rushdie, the apostate, is an unwise one," he said to loud applause from MPs.

"The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th Century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important."

Perceived blasphemy

On Monday Religious Affairs Minister Eijaz ul-Haq caused uproar in Pakistan's parliament when he was accused of inciting violence during a debate of Sir Salman's knighthood.

Protest against Salman Rushdie's knighthood in Lahore
The knighthood has generated anger in Pakistan

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

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

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.

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.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Pakistan's foreign ministry condemns Salman Rushdie



SEE ALSO
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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