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Iran blasts Britain for giving Rushdie a knighthood

Iran condemned Britain on Sunday over its awarding of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, the India-born British citizen who spent more than a decade in hiding after being accused of blaspheming against Islam in a novel.

Iran condemned Britain on Sunday over its awarding of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, the India-born British citizen who spent more than a decade in hiding after being accused of blaspheming against Islam in a novel.

Rushdie went into hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 that ordered Muslims to kill the author for allegedly insulting Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses. He didn't come out of hiding until after 1998, when the Iranian government declared that it would no longer support Khomeini's fatwa.

However, Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, said in Tehran on Sunday that Britain's decision to grant its highest honour to Rushdie was an act of Islamaphobia.

"Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is … a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials," Hosseini said during a press conference in Tehran.

"This [award] showed that the movement of insulting Muslims was not accidental but was a planned and organized move that enjoyed support of some Western countries."

Iran's relations with London have been strained lately due to Iran's controversial nuclear program. Tehran restarted its program in the past few years, saying it intends only to generate power, but many Western countries — led by the United States — fear it intends to develop nuclear weapons and have been pushing the United Nations to crack down.

The knighthood for Rushdie, as well as a number of other people, was announced in Queen Elizabeth's birthday honours list, published on Saturday.

"I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognized in this way," Rushdie said in a statement.

Rushdie is the author of some 13 novels and has won numerous awards for his works, including the Booker Prize in 1981 for Midnight's Children. In 1993, the novel won the "Booker of Bookers," a special award honouring the best novel in the 25-year history of the prize.

In early 2007, he began teaching at Emory University in Atlanta, after accepting a five-year appointment as distinguished writer-in-residence.

A total of 21 people were grantedknighthoods on Saturday, including CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky and Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis.

A total of 946 honours were handed out in the Queen's birthday honours list.

With files from the Associated Press

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