Outrage over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood threatened to ignite across the Muslim world yesterday. Security around the writer was reviewed by Scotland Yard as an Iranian group placed an _80,000 bounty on his head. The same group accused the Queen of mocking Muslims with the honour. In London, Lord Ahmed, Britain’s first Muslim peer, said he had been appalled by the award to a man he accused of having ‘blood on his hands’. In Pakistan, where effigies of the Queen and 59-year-old Rushdie were burned, a minister appeared to justify suicide bombings as a response to the knighthood.
Salman Rushdie, who went into hiding under threat of death after an Iranian fatwa, has been knighted by the Queen. His book The Satanic Verses offended Muslims worldwide and a bounty was placed on his head in 1989. But since the Indian-born author returned to public life in 1999, he has not shied away from controversy. A devout secularist, he backed Commons Leader Jack Straw over comments on Muslim women and veils and has warned against Islamic “totalitarianism”. The son of a successful businessman, Sir Salman was born into a Muslim family in Mumbai in 1947. He was educated in England at Rugby School and studied history at Cambridge University.
TEHERAN – Police used tear gas to briefly disperse hundreds of angry protesters who hurled stones and fire bombs at the Danish Embassy in the second attack on a Western mission in the Iranian capital on Monday over the publication of blasphemous caricatures. Police had encircled the embassy building but were unable to hold back the mob of 400 demonstrators as they pelted the walled brick villa that houses only the Danish mission with stones and Molotov cocktails. At least nine demonstrators were hurt in the melee, police said. About an hour into the demonstration, police fired tear gas into the mob, driving it into a nearby park. Later about 20 protesters returned and tried to break through police lines to enter the compound but were blocked by security forces. As the tear gas clouds dispersed, most of the rest of the crowd filtered back to the embassy and continued burning Danish flags and chanting anti-Danish slogans and God is Great. Two trees inside the embassy compound were set on fire by the gasoline bombs. The embassy gate was burned as was a police booth along the wall protecting the building. The Danish Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any staff inside the building, which had closed for the day before the demonstration began. In a live television interview with the DR public television in Denmark, Ambassador Claus Juul Nielsen said the protesters vandalised the ground floor of the embassy, which included the trade and the visa departments. It now seems that the police control the situation, Juul Nielsen said. We have had no injuries among our staff, we were able to get out before it all started. The mob, which included about 100 women, ignored police orders to disperse continued to hurl firebombs, before they were hit with tear gas. The crowd disperesed by midnight. Earlier in the day, 200 student demonstrators threw stones at the Austrian Embassy, breaking some windows and starting small fires. Also on Monday, 200 members of Iran’s parliament issued a statement warning that those who published the cartoons should remember the case of Salman Rushdie – the British author against whom the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death warrant for his novel The Satanic Verses. Apparently they have not learned from miserable life of the person who wrote Satanic Verses, the lawmakers said in the statement, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Parliamentarians do not have the authority to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, like the one in which Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death in 1989. The Austrian mission in Teheran was targeted because Austria currently holds the presidency of the European Union. The demonstration at the Austrian Embassy lasted two hours, with protesters also throwing firecrackers that sparked the fires. Police quickly extinguished the blazes and stopped some protesters from throwing stones. On Monday night, a firebomb was thrown at the Austrian Cultural Centre in Teheran, causing no injuries, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said. Outside the embassy – located in a four-storey building in Teheran, the protesters chanted, Death to Denmark, death to Israel, and some burned flags of Germany, Denmark and France. One protester carried a caricature of German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was the first instance of violence over the drawings in Iran, though protests have occurred there. It came a day after thousands of Muslim demonstrators in Beirut set fire to the building housing the Danish mission in Beirut.