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Queen grants Salman Rushdie knighthood

Latest update : 2008-06-25

British author Salman Rushdie has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to literature. Announced last June, the knighthood sparked protests among Muslims around the world.

Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday gave the British author Salman Rushdie the knighthood which caused protests by Muslims around the world when it was announced last year.

Rushdie, 61, was knighted for his services to literature.

When the knighthood was announced in the queen's birthday honours list last June, it sparked condemnation from a number of Muslim countries and organisations, protests, and threats against Britain from Al-Qaeda.

"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 recognised," Rushdie said after receiving his honour.

He added: "At this stage it's certainly not a day to talk about controversy, it's a day for myself and my family to celebrate this.

"I think it was a short-lived thing, I'm happy to say, and in my experience most people were very pleased. I certainly was."

After Rushdie's knighthood was announced last year, a Pakistani government minister at one point suggested the award justified suicide bombings.

And Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri warned that the terror network was preparing a "precise response" to Britain's decision to transform Rushdie into "Sir Salman".

In the subsequent furore, British government ministers stressed that they were sorry if people had been upset by the honour, but said it was for a lifelong body of work and refused to apologise for the award.

The Indian-born writer, who was raised as a Sunni Muslim, has lived since 1989 under the shadow of an Iranian fatwa -- or religious decree -- calling for his death over his controversial novel "The Satanic Verses".

The author is accused by some Muslims of blaspheming Islam in the book, which triggered an international furore when it was first published in 1988.

Rushdie was forced into hiding after Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued the fatwa.

Following the announcement of Rushdie's knighthood last year, Iran said the death sentence still stands.

After nearly a decade hiding away, Rushdie began to appear in public more and more, eventually becoming a socialite fixture on the international party circuit.

Asked if, in hindsight, he had any doubts about writing "The Satanic Verses", he replied: "I really have no regrets about any of my work.

"This is, as I say, an honour not for any specific book but for a very long career in writing and I'm happy to see that recognised."

Rushdie's second novel, "Midnight's Children", won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981 and was named the best novel in 25 years of the prize in 1993.

Speaking about his works, the knight added: "It's difficult to choose between your books, you wouldn't choose between your children would you.

"Clearly 'Midnight's Children' was a very important book for me and I'm proud of what that book's achieved.

"The children's book I wrote, 'Haroun And The Sea Of Stories', was important to me because I wrote it for my son and most writers will tell you they are closest to their most recent book.

"The queen asked me what I was writing next and how the work was going and I unveiled to her I might write a children's book next," he revealed, adding that he almost messed up the ceremony protocol due to nerves.

Date created : 2008-06-25