Britain `voices concern' at threat to Rushdie

Britain voiced "deep concern" yesterday after a Pakistani minister appeared to state that Salman Rushdie's knighthood justified suicide bombings.

Britain voiced "deep concern" yesterday after a Pakistani minister appeared to state that Salman Rushdie's knighthood justified suicide bombings.

The high commissioner in Islamabad, Robert Brinkley, conveyed the message when he was summoned to meet government representatives.

Pressure had been growing for the UK to speak out over the incendiary comments by Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq on Monday.

Amid street protests in Pakistan, he sparked uproar in the national parliament by reportedly saying: "The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism.

"If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British Government apologises and withdraws the `Sir' title."

Downing Street refused to be drawn on the issue, and the Foreign Office merely said it was looking into the remarks.

Mr ul-Haq has since insisted he was not trying to condone or incite terrorism. Mr Brinkley released a statement in Islamabad last night stressing that the knighthood for Rushdie - announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours on Saturday - was for his services to literature and not intended to offend Muslims.

But he yesterday firmly rejected Mr ul-Haq's comments when the Pakistani Ministry for Foreign Affairs called him in to express displeasure at the honour.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The British Government is very clear that nothing can justify suicide bomb attacks." However, Tory MP for Wycombe, Paul Goodman, said: "We've experienced the horror of the 7/7 London Tube bombings, in which 52 people lost their lives, and the attempted 21/7 atrocity. And the terrorist threat clearly remains.

"Mr al-Haq's remarks are, in effect, an incitement to further acts.

"Although he's since sought partially to withdraw his remarks, no condemnation of them has been forthcoming to date from a higher level within the government of Pakistan."

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