June 18, 2007 / 10:26 PM / 10 years ago

Rushdie"humbled" by knighthood but others upset

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Author Salman Rushdie said on Monday he was “thrilled and humbled” to be awarded a knighthood but he had no comment on anger in Iran and Pakistan where his book “The Satanic Verses” outraged many Muslims.

<p>Novelist Salman Rushdie seen in this file photo in Beverly Hills, California, September 17, 2006. Rushdie said on Monday he was "thrilled and humbled" to be awarded a knighthood but he had no comment on anger in Iran and Pakistan where his book "The Satanic Verses" outraged many Muslims. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello</p>

The author, who was born in India, was awarded the knighthood for services to literature in the Queen’s birthday honours list published on Saturday.

Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” prompted protests, some violent, by Muslims in many countries because they said it blasphemed their faith. Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa death warrant against him in 1989 and Rushdie spent much of the next nine years in hiding.

Iran accused Britain on Sunday of insulting Islamic values by knighting Rushdie. On Monday Pakistan’s religious affairs minister said insults to Islam were at the root of terrorism and Muslim countries should break off ties with Britain if it did not withdraw Rushdie’s honour.

In a statement issued by his agent in New York, where he lives, Rushdie said, “I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour and am very grateful that my work has been recognized in this way.”

Asked about the reaction in Iran and Pakistan, his agent Jin Auh said he was not available for further comment.

The Islamic Republic’s government formally distanced itself in 1998 from the original fatwa against Rushdie. But shortly after it disavowed the death edict under a deal with Britain, Iranian media said three Iranian clerics called on followers to kill Rushdie, saying the fatwa was irrevocable.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said on Sunday Rushdie was “one of the most hated figures” in the Islamic world.

In Pakistan, students affiliated with a religious party protested in two towns while Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said the decision to honour Rushdie was insensitive to Muslims.

“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,” Aslam told a regular briefing. “Salman Rushdie has tried to insult and malign Muslims through his writings and this had provoked very strong reaction and sentiments in the Muslim world.”

Earlier, Pakistan’s parliament adopted a resolution condemning the knighthood and said Britain should withdraw it.

Additional reporting by Kamran Haider in Islamabad

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