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Protests Erupt Across Pakistan Against Rushdie Knighthood

Hundreds of Pakistanis protested Britain's decision to honor author Salman Rushdie with a knighthood. Rushdie has been accused of insulting Islam in his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses." From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports protesters burned effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth and repeated calls for the novelist's murder.

In Islamabad hundreds of people chanted "down with Rushdie" and "down with Britain" during a protest Friday

Hundreds more took to the streets in major cities throughout Pakistan demanding Britain withdraw Rushdie's knighthood.

Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, a pro-Taleban cleric and opposition political leader, told reporters in the capital that the award was an insult to Muslims around the world.

He says Pakistan will not accept the award and that all Muslims are opposed to Britain and - in his words - "the accursed Salman Rushdie."

Both Pakistan and Iran have condemned the knighthood for Rushdie, which comes nearly twenty years after "The Satanic Verses" was originally published.

The book sparked widespread controversy for passages that allegedly insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

Pakistan's national assembly officially condemned the knighthood on Monday.

Lawmakers passed a second resolution Friday calling on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to apologize "to the Muslim world."

Earlier this week, Pakistan's religious affairs minister, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, said the knighthood could justify suicide attacks.

On Thursday, a hard-line Pakistani cleric awarded terrorist leader Osama bin Laden the religious title and honorific "Saifulla", or Sword of Islam, to protest Britain's decision.

Protests also erupted in Muslim majority communities throughout neighboring India.

Several prominent Iranian clerics have renewed calls for Rushdie's murder.

In 1989, Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious edict ordering Muslims to kill the author over the controversial novel.

At least five people were killed during riots in Islamabad that year, and the book's Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991.

Rushdie, who was born to Muslim parents in India, was forced into hiding for nearly a decade.

Britain is defending the knighthood, which it says honors Rushdie's outstanding contribution to literature.