South Asia News
Thousands protest in Pakistan over Rushdie knighthood
Jun 22, 2007, 13:15 GMT
Islamabad - Thousands of angry Pakistanis took to the streets on Friday to protest against the knighting of author Salman Rushdie, while the country's parliament hardened its stance on the issue and demanded an apology from Britain.
London's honouring of the author, whose 1988 book The Satanic Verses is considered blasphemous by many Muslims, has sparked a furious response in Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and other Muslim countries.
Around 1,000 people gathered in two separate protest rallies in Islamabad, chanting slogans like 'Death to blasphemer Rushdie' and 'Death to Britain.' A few of the demonstrators waved a banner that read, 'Why everyone who insults Islam is dear to the West?'
'The honouring of a blasphemer by the British government is disgusting,' a protester told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. It will only fan hatred among the Muslims towards the west for its anti-Islam policies, he added.
'Britain has opened a new front against Muslims by awarding a criminal like Rushdie,' leader of the religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal Fazal ur Rehman told the rally.
Similar small rallies were held in other major cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar after Friday prayers. Traders kept their shops closed under a general strike in several other towns and lawyers boycotted court proceedings in some areas.
The demonstrators also urged government in Islamabad to end diplomatic relations with London and boycott British products.
Meanwhile, Pakistani parliament, which condemned the knighting of Rushdie and demanded the withdrawal of the title on Monday, passed a new resolution unanimously on Friday that called on Britain to apologize for the move.
'The British government and Prime Minister Tony Blair have not only disappointed but have also hurt the entire Pakistani nation by not withdrawing the title for Rushdie,' the resolution said.
'This house renews its demand from the British government and Tony Blair for immediate withdrawal of the title and tender an apology to the Muslim world,' it added.
But Britain has already ruled out an apology over the issue, insisting that the title was conferred on Rushdie for his literary services and not to offend Muslims.
'I think we have a set of values that accrues people honours for their contribution to literature even when they don't agree with our point of view. That's our way and that's what we stand by,' Britain's Home Secretary, John Reid, told an audience in New York Wednesday.
The renewed call by the Pakistani parliament follows comments by the speaker of the assembly of central Punjab province, Afzal Sahi, that he would kill any blasphemer he comes across.
The Pakistan Ulema Council, a private body of more than 2,000 Islamic scholars, on Thursday conferred the honour title of 'Saifullah' or Sword of God on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in an apparent response to Rushdie's knighting.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur