Muslim radicals burned an effigy of Queen Elizabeth Tuesday as Pakistan summoned the British ambassador over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood and Iranian hardliners turned their fury on the monarch.
Anger has mounted in the neighbouring Islamic republics since the British monarch gave the 59-year-old author of “The Satanic Verses” the title of Sir Salman for services to literature at the weekend.
The row has thrown Rushdie back in the eye of the storm, 18 years after he was sentenced to death by Iran’s revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for blasphemy in a fatwa that has never been revoked.
Pakistan called British High Commissioner, or ambassador, Robert Brinkley to the foreign ministry in Islamabad on Tuesday to receive an official protest against the honour for the Indian-born writer, officials said.
Brinkley had defended the award, hailing Rushdie’s “distinguished” career and saying in a statement that it was “simply untrue that this knighthood is intended as an insult to Islam or the Prophet Mohammed.”
Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq on Monday said the award for Rushdie justified suicide attacks, prompting outrage in Britain, although he later withdrew the remark.
Pakistan’s senate on Tuesday condemned the “blatant disregard for the sentiments of the Muslims by the British government by awarding (a) knighthood to Salman Rushdie, who committed blasphemy against the Holy Prophet.”
Legislators in North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan, which is ruled by an alliance of hardline Islamists, called for Pakistan to sever diplomatic ties with London.
Around 150 hardline protesters in the eastern city of Lahore torched an effigy of the British queen and called for Rushdie to be handed to a Muslim country and dealt with by a Sharia court, witnesses said.
“The punishment for a blasphemer is death,” Shahid Gilani, who heads the youth wing of Pakistan’s radical Jamaat-e-Islami party, told the crowd.
In neighbouring Iran a non-governmental organisation, the Committee of Glorification of the Martyrs of the Islamic Movement, said it was increasing its reward for killing Rushdie to 150,000 dollars from 100,000 dollars.
Iranian conservatives attacked Queen Elizabeth over the “unwise” honour, with a top legislator saying she lived in a dreamworld in which Britain was still a 19th century superpower.
“Salman Rushdie has turned into a hated corpse which cannot be resurrected by any action,” Mohammad Reza Bahonar, first deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament, said in an address to the house.
Hardline daily Jomhuri Eslami also launched a scathing attack on the queen, describing the monarch as an “old crone” whose action was a “grimace to the Islamic world”.
“The question is what the old British crone sought by knighting Rushdie, to help him? Well, her act only shortens Rushdie’s pathetic life,” it added.
The daily also linked the award of the knighthood—which marked the queen’s 81st birthday—to a controversial party at the British embassy in Tehran on Thursday celebrating the same occasion.
Dozens of Islamist students protested against the party, hurling stones, eggs and paint filled bags outside the doors of the compound and vented their anger against Iranians who attended the event.
Iranian government officials have been slightly more reserved in their reaction, although foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini has condemned the award and said it was a clear sign of “Islamaphobia”.
Twenty Iranian members of parliament meanwhile publicly requested Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki make an official protest to Britain over the knighthood, the Fars news agency reported.
Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for a decade after Khomeini issued the 1989 death sentence. Khomeini’s successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in January 2005 he still believed the British novelist was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam.
Rushdie’s publisher Jonathan Cape, a division of Random House, refused to comment. “We don’t want to add fuel to the flames,” spokesman Christian Lewis said in London.
Buckingham Palace also declined to comment and said it was unlikely Rushdie would actually receive his gong before October at the earliest, if he chooses to come to the palace for the honour.