Published January 13, 2015
Pakistan on Monday condemned Britain's award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie as an affront to Muslim sentiments, and a Cabinet minister said the honor provided a justification for suicide attacks.
In the eastern city of Multan, hard-line Muslim students burned effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Rushdie. About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, "Kill him! Kill him!"
On Saturday, Britain announced the knighthood for the author of "The Satanic Verses" in an honors list timed for the official celebration of the queen's 81st birthday. It has also drawn condemnation from Iran.
Lawmakers in Pakistan's lower house of parliament on Monday passed a resolution proposed by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, who branded Rushdie a "blasphemer." He said the honor had hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world.
"This is an occasion for the (world's) 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision," Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, later said in parliament.
"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. 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," ul-Haq said, also urging Muslim countries to break diplomatic ties with London.
"If Muslims do not unite, the situation will get worse and Salman Rushdie may get a seat in the British parliament."
After his comments were reported on local news networks, ul-Haq clarified to lawmakers that his aim had been to look into the root causes of terrorism.
Lawmakers voted unanimously for the resolution although one opposition member, Khwaja Asif, said it exposed a contradiction in the government's policy as an ally of Britain in the war on terrorism.
Robert Brinkley, Britain's high commissioner to Pakistan, defended the decision to honor Rushdie for his contributions to literature.
Rushdie is 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.
"It is simply untrue to suggest that this in anyway is an insult to Islam or the Prophet Muhammed, and we have enormous respect for Islam as a religion and for its intellectual and cultural achievements," Brinkley said.
Asked if he was concerned it could provoke unrest in Pakistan, Brinkley said, "We will just have to see where it goes from here. There's certainly no reason for that."
At the Multan protest, Asim Dahr, a student leader from the group Jamiat Turaba Arabia, demanded Rushdie face Islamic justice.
"This queen has made a mockery of Muslims by giving him a title of 'sir.' Salman Rushie was condemned by Imam Khomeni and he issued a decree about his death. He should be handed over to the Muslims so they can try him according to Islamic laws," he said.
Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author because "The Satanic Verses" allegedly insulted Islam. The threat forced Rushdie to live in hiding for a decade.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Rushdie's knighthood would hamper interfaith understanding and that Islamabad would protest to London.
"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."