Iran and Pakistan push for withdrawal of Rushdie knighthood
ANGER over a knighthood for author Salman Rushdie has escalated into a full-blown diplomatic row as Iran and Pakistan summoned Britain’s ambassadors to protest, drawing a retort from London.
Iran summoned the British envoy to Tehran, Geoffrey Adams, who was told by the Foreign Ministry’s director for Europe that the honour was a “provocative act”.
In Kuala Lumpur, supporters of Malaysia’s hardline Islamic party protested outside the British high commission yesterday against the award. Chanting “Destroy Salman Rushdie” and “Destroy Britain”, 30 members of the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia urged London to retract the honour or risk consequences.
In Pakistan, where both houses of parliament called on Britain to withdraw the knighthood, British high commissioner Robert Brinkley was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.
Islamic hardliners in the city of Lahore burned an effigy of the Queen, while one Iranian newspaper called her an “old crone”.
Britain in response said Mr Brinkley had passed on London’s “deep concern” at comments by Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, Ijaz-ul-Haq, that honouring Rushdie justified suicide attacks.
“The British Government is very clear that nothing can justify suicide bomb attacks,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Rushdie is accused by some Muslims of blaspheming Islam in his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, publication of which triggered an international furore.
He has been living since then under the shadow of a death sentence imposed by Iran’s late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which has never been formally revoked.
Rushdie, who turned 60 this week, was put under police protection following the Satanic Verses flare-up.
His whereabouts are not known, but he is believed to divide his time between London and New York.