Friday, June 22, 2007

India too joins the let's-bash-Rushdie bandwagon

Kashmir Shuts Down Against Rushdie

Most shops, offices and schools were closed Friday in India's Muslim-majority Kashmir region to protest Britain awarding a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, who has been accused of insulting Islam.

The strike was called by the Islamic rebel group Jamiat-ul-Mujahedeen, one of several groups protesting predominantly Hindu India's rule in the divided Himalayan state.

In Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, many shops, buisnesses and schools heeded the strike call. But some parts of downtown remained open for business, and traffic was steady on the roads.

While no violence has been reported so far, police and security forces were on alert to thwart any widespread protests.

In Pakistan, supporters from the nation's radical Islamic groups were set to hold protests later Friday over Rushdie's knighthood.

Although protesters have burned effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth II since this week when Britain announced the award for his novel "The Satanic Verses," the latest protests come a day after a Pakistani cleric bestowed a title on Osama bin Laden in reaction to knighthood for Rushdie.

Pakistan is a close ally of the United States and Britain in the war on terror, but it has condemned the granting of award for Rushdie, accusing of insulting Islam by writing a blasphemous novel.

Indian Kashmir's largest rebel group, Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, and several political parties and religious groups have called for mass protests after Friday prayers later in the day, and urged their followers to burn effigies of Rushdie.

"Awarding knighthood on Rushdie amounts to a blatant anti-Muslim bias, and Muslims all over the world condemn the move," said Junaid-ul-Islam, a spokesman of the Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, in a telephone call to Current News Service, a local news agency.

Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din, head of Kashmir's Islamic court, said in a statement that Rushdie was "liable to be killed for rendering the gravest injury to the sentiments of the Muslims across the world."

Bashir-ud-din is a government-appointed religious head and has the authority to issue legal opinions and decrees on interpretations of Islamic law.

In 1989, Iran's then-spiritual leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa or religious edict ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie for his book, "The Satanic Verses."

The threat forced Rushdie, who lives in Britain, into hiding for a decade.

Britain has defended its decision to honor Rushdie, one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century. His 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for "Midnight's Children" in 1981.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India, but claimed in its entirety by both. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have died in the conflict.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home