Pakistan condemns Knighthood of Salman Rushdie
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s parliament yesterday unanimously condemned Britain’s award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie and called for the title to be withdrawn on the grounds that it offends Muslims.
Indian-born Rushdie, 59, was forced to go into hiding for a decade after Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 issued a death sentence over his book ‘The Satanic Verses,’ claiming it insulted Islam.
Rushdie was awarded the knighthood by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday.
“This house strongly condemns the title of Sir awarded to Salman Rushdie,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan said, reading the resolution passed by Pakistan’s lower house, the national assembly.
“We demand from Britain to refrain from such acts which hurt the sentiments of Muslims and take back the title of Sir given to Rushdie,” Afgan said.
The resolution added that the award would encourage “contempt” for the Prophet Mohammed.
Iran on Saturday accused British leaders of “Islamophobia” for knighting Rushdie. An Irani foreign ministry spokesman said honouring the “hated apostate” was part of a Western campaign against Muslims.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office said it would send a protest to London, adding that the British honour would harm efforts to promote understanding between Muslim nations and the West.
“We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him. This, we feel, is insensitive and we would convey our sentiments to the British government,” spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.
“Certainly Salman Rushdie has tried to insult and malign Muslims.”
Five people died in the Pakistani capital Islamabad in 1989 in riots against Rushdie’s book. Pakistan is an Islamic republic, like neighbouring Iran, and its 160mn population is overwhelmingly Muslim.
“Western countries call for inter-faith harmony but let no chance pass to hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world,” said Liaquat Baloch, the parliamentary leader of Pakistan’s main alliance of Islamic parties.
Baloch asked the government of President Pervez Musharraf, a key Western ally, to lodge a “strong protest” with the British government over the honour for Rushdie.
Opposition lawmakers brought up Pakistan’s role in the “war on terror,” saying that Britain and the US had no regard for Islamabad despite its help in fighting extremism.
“Those who are awarding the title of Sir to Rushdie are allies of our government, but look at the steps they are taking,” said Khawaja Asif, the parliamentary leader of exiled premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.
The British High Commission (embassy) in Islamabad defended the decision to bestow the knighthood on Rushdie.