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Britain Condemns Al-Qaeda Threat Over Rushdie Title

Ayman al-Zawahiri (file) (AFP) July 11, 2007 --  Britain has condemned a threat by Al-Qaeda's second-in-command over London's decision to award a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie.

In an audio message posted on a Islamic militant website, Ayman al-Zawahiri said the group was "preparing a response" to the move to honor Rushdie, whose novel "The Satanic Verses" prompted anger in the Muslim world for its alleged blasphemy.

"There is no excuse for such threats or acts of violence," a spokesman for the Foreign Office said on customary condition of anonymity.

In the tape, whose authenticity could not be verified, al-Zawahiri also accused Britain of being hypocritical for giving Rushdie the knighthood last month under the banner of freedom of speech.

Officials in Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan have criticized the knighthood, with a senior Iranian cleric saying the 1989 death sentence issued against Rushdie by Iran's late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei is "still alive."

(AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Clash Of Cultures

Clash Of Cultures

Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie (epa file photo)

The furor raised by the publication in Europe of cartoons believed by many Muslims to be insulting to Islam is far from being the first time that Western notions of freedom of expression have clashed with Islamic sensibilities. Below are a few of the major incidents in this long-running tension.

2005: London's Tate Britain museum removes from exhibition the "God Is Great #2" sculpture by John Latham for fear of offending Muslims, citing the "sensitive climate" after 7 July suicide bombings in London. The sculpture piece consists of three sacred religious texts -- the Koran, the Bible, and the Talmud -- embedded in a sheet of glass.

2004: Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh is murdered after release of his film "Submission" about violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of Dutch parliament who wrote script, plans another film about Islam's attitude to gays. She has also received death threats.

2002: Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel incenses Muslims by writing in "This Day" newspaper that Prophet Muhammad would have approved of the "Miss World" contest and might have wed a beauty queen. Muslim-Christian riots in northern city of Kaduna kill 200. Daniel flees Nigeria after a fatwa urges Muslims to kill her.

1995: An Egyptian court brands academic Nasr Hamed Abu Zaid an apostate because of his writings on Islam and annuls his marriage on grounds that a Muslim may not be married to an apostate. Abu Zaid and his wife move to the Netherlands.

1994: Taslima Nasreen flees Bangladesh for Sweden after court charges her with "maliciously hurting Muslim religious sentiments." Some Muslims demand she be killed for her book "Lajja" (Shame), banned for blasphemy and suggesting free sex.

1989: Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calls on all Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy against Islam in his book "The Satanic Verses."

(compiled by RFE/RL)

See also:

Dutch Immigration -- The Death Of Multiculturalism

Report Says No Anti-Muslim Backlash In Europe

Vienna Conference Ends With Appeals For Understanding, Tolerance

A thematic webpage devoted to issues of religious tolerance in RFE/RL's broadcast region and around the globe.