Salman Rushdie is finally knighted

June 25th, 2008 - 11:54 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
London, June 25 (DPA) Indian origin author Salman Rushdie received a knighthood for services to literature from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II Wednesday, saying he was proud of the honour and had “no regrets” over the controversy sparked by his work. Sir Salman, as the Anglo-Indian writer will now be known, said the knighthood was in recognition “not for any specific book but for a very long career in writing and I’m happy to see it recognized”.

Rushdie, 61, enraged opinion in the Muslim world with his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses”, which was considered blasphemous against Islam by Iran and made him the subject of a fatwa of death sentence by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Announcement of the British honour for Rushdie a year ago sparked worldwide protests in Muslim countries and caused considerable diplomatic tension between Britain and Pakistan.

The terror network Al Qaeda, in a chilling website audiotape, called the knighthood an “insult to Islam” and threatened a “very precise response” against Britain.

The British government of Gordon Brown said “sorry” if the award had caused offence, but refused a demand by the Pakistan government to withdraw the honour.

The decision to honour the author was taken by Tony Blair, Brown’s predecessor as prime minister. There were also protests in Iran, Malaysia and other parts of the Muslim world.

After imposition of the fatwa in February, 1989, Rushdie was forced into hiding and moved 30 times in an attempt to keep his whereabouts secret.

Over the last 10 years, he has returned to public life, living in London and New York.

Speaking after the ceremony Wednesday, and displaying his knighthood medal, he said: “I’m very proud, very happy.”

“It’s been a long time - my first novel was published 33 years ago but I think the thing you hope to do as a writer is leave behind a shelf of interesting books and it’s great just to have that work recognized.”

Asked about the controversy surrounding his knighthood, he said: “At this stage, you know, it’s certainly not a day to talk about controversy, it’s a day for myself and my family to celebrate this.”

Asked if, with hindsight, he had any doubts about writing The Satanic Verses, Rushdie said: “I really have no regrets about any of my work.”

“If you’re lucky enough to have one book that gets into people’s consciousness in that way then it’s fortunate,” said Rushdie.

“The fact that that book, 27 years after it was published, it still interesting to people, I’m very proud of that,” he added.

But Rushdie said he was really “more interested” in his recent work. He would write another children’s book next.

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