Muslims burned the flag of St George and called for the Queen to ‘Go to Hell’ in a furious rally held in London over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood.
Angry Muslim extremists rallying at Regents Park Mosque said that anger over the award could match the fierce reaction to publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark in 2006.
Organisers of a protest outside the mosque claimed several hundred demonstrators were denouncing the decision to reward Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” led to a death threat from Iran in 1989.
“This knighthood is just another example of Tony Blair and his government’s attempts to secularize Muslims and reward apostates,” said Anjem Choudray, protest organizer and an ex-head of the British wing of the banned radical group al-Muhajiroun.
“Rushdie is a hate figure across the Muslim world because of his insults to Islam,” Choudray said.
“This honour will have ramifications here and across the world”.
One of Britain’s leading Muslims has branded the flag burning protestors “strange lunatics.”
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, condemned the protestors, saying: “This is unacceptable behaviour which the majority of Muslims in this country would not support.
“There’s no denying a large section of the Muslim community feel very hurt about this issue. But having expressed your anger and frustration you’ve got to move forward.
“Unfortunately there will always be some strange lunatics, like in any community, who give others a bad name.”
A prominent Iranian cleric has said the fatwa death warrant against author Salman Rushdie issued by the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini in 1989 was “still alive” in the Islamic Republic.
The protest has drawn hundreds of angry British muslims to Regents Park Mosque in North London
The comments by Ahmad Khatami at Friday prayers broadcast on state radio were the latest sign of the anger in Iran sparked by Britain’s decision to award a knighthood to Rushdie.
Muslims say his novel “The Satanic Verses” blasphemed against the Prophet Mohammad and ridiculed the Koran. “In the Islamic Iran that revolutionary fatwa of Imam (Khomeini) is still alive and cannot be changed,” Khatami, who often rails against the West, told worshippers in Tehran.
In 1998, Iran’s government formally distanced itself from the death warrant, but hardline groups in Iran regularly renew the call for his murder, saying Khomeini’s fatwa is irrevocable.
Pakistan’s parliament renewed a call on Friday for Britain to withdraw a knighthood for author Salman Rushie and apologise for hurting Muslim feelings.
Protesters in Pakistan burn effigies of Salman Rushdie
Rushdie, whose 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” outraged many Muslims around the world, was awarded a knighthood for services to literature in Queen Elizabeth’s birthday honours list last week.
Pakistan and Iran have protested against the honour and the Pakistani parliament condemned it in a resolution on Monday.
The National Assembly lower house of parliament passed another resolution on Friday expressing dismay Britain had not reversed its decision.
The Rushdie row shows no signs of abating as the bounty on his head continues to rise
“The British government has not withdrawn the title which has not only disappointed the entire Pakistani nation but has also hurt it,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi told the assembly.
“This august house again calls on the British government and its Prime Minister Tony Blair to immediately withdraw the title . . . and tender an apology to the Muslim world.”
Muslims say Rushdie’s novel blasphemed against the Prophet Mohammad and ridiculed the Koran.
Britain has defended the knighthood, stressing the importance of free speech and saying it was part of a trend of honouring Muslims in the British community.
At least five people were killed and scores wounded in protests against the book in the Pakistani capital in 1989.
Two days after that, the late Ayatollah Rohallah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme religious leader, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling on Muslims to kill the Indian-born British writer, who spent the next nine years living in hiding.
Religious Affairs Minister Mohammad Ejaz-ul-Haq, son of Pakistan’s late military president Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, told the assembly this week that if someone committed a suicide bombing to protect the Prophet Mohammad’s honour, his act was justified.
He later said he did not mean such attacks were justified but was merely saying militants could use the knighthood as a justification for violence.
A hardline cleric called on Wednesday for Rushdie to be killed and the next day the speaker of the Punjab provincial assembly said blasphemers should be killed.
A group of traders in Islamabad on Thursday offered a reward of 10 million rupees ($165,000) to anyone who killed Rushdie.