Pakistan & Iran protest Salman Rushdie award
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan and Iran have summoned their British ambassadors to protest that author Salman Rushdie, accused of insulting Islam in his novel "The Satanic Verses," was to be honored with a knighthood.
Iranian Foreign Ministry official Ebrahim Rahimpour told the British ambassador to Tehran, Geoffrey Adams, that the decision was a "provocative act" that has angered Muslims, the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, called in British High Commissioner Robert Brinkley on Tuesday to formally protest London's "utter lack of sensitivity," ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.
Brinkley has defended Britain's decision to honor Rushdie, one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century whose 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for "Midnight's Children" in 1981.
Britain announced the knighthood on Saturday in an honors list timed for the official celebration of the queen's 81st birthday.
Iran's late supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because "The Satanic Verses" insulted Islam. The threat forced Rushdie, who resides in Britain, to live in hiding for a decade.
On Tuesday, Brinkley was told Rushdie was "a controversial figure who is known less for his literary contributions and more for his offensive and insulting writings which have deeply hurt the sentiments of Muslims all over the world," Aslam said.
She said the award could "unnecessarily incite feelings" and that it was surprising given Britain's own large Muslim population.
Brinkley in turn delivered a complaint of his own, relating to comments by Pakistan's religious affairs minister.
The minister, Ejaz ul-Haq, told lawmakers on Monday that "if someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title."
"The high commissioner made clear the British government's deep concern at what the minister for religious affairs was reported to have said," Britain's Foreign Office said in a written statement.
"The British government is very clear that nothing can justify suicide bomb attacks," the statement said.
Ul-Haq insisted Tuesday that he had said only that the award could be used by extremists as a justification for suicide attacks.
Small protests against Rushdie's knighthood have taken place in the cities of Lahore and Karachi.