A group of Pakistani Muslim clerics has decided to bestow an honored religious title on Osama bin Laden, in response to Britain's decision to knight author Salman Rushdie.

The Pakistan Ulema Council Thursday said it will grant the chief of the al-Qaida network the title of "Saifullah," meaning "Sword of Allah."

This is the latest in a series of protests against the knighthood of Rushdie, who wrote a novel in 1988, The Satanic Verses, that outraged Muslims worldwide.

British officials say Rushdie was honored for his entire literary career. Home Secretary John Reid on Wednesday stressed the need to preserve freedom of expression in literature and politics.

People in Pakistan and Malaysia have staged demonstrations against Britain's decision to honor the Indian-born Rushdie. Many Muslims say his novel is blasphemous.

Britain awarded Rushdie a knighthood for services to literature on Saturday.

Pakistan and Iran have summoned Britain's ambassadors to protest.

Rushdie went into hiding in 1989 after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author because his book insulted Islam.

Under an agreement with Britain in 1998, Iran disavowed the death sentence. But hard-line clerics still called on Muslims to kill Rushdie, saying the fatwa could not be revoked.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.