Al Zawahiri tape threatens attacks over Rushdie knighthood -Muslim Council of Britain justifies threats as "not unexpected"
July 10, 2007
Bin Laden's deputy threatens Britain over Rushdie's knighthood
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 11 July 2007
Osama bin Laden's deputy has threatened to carry out attacks on Britain in retaliation for the award of a knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie.
An audiotape by Ayman al-Zawahiri, considered to be al-Qa'ida's second-in-command, declares that a "very precise response" was being prepared by the group. According to a US- based intelligence monitoring group, the tape, lasting 20 minutes and 43 seconds, entitled Malicious Britain and its Indian Slaves, was produced by "as-Sahab", which describes itself as the multimedia wing of al-Qa'ida.
But it is not clear whether the tape was made before the London and Glasgow bomb attacks. Addressing Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, Zawahiri said British policy - the decision to honour Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses - "has brought tragedy and defeat for you, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the centre of London. And if you did not understand that, listen, we are ready to repeat it for you."
The award, in the Queen's birthday honours last month, led to widespread protests in the Muslim world. A group of traders in Pakistan has raised £80,000 as reward to anyone who beheads the author. Zawahiri's speech is the first time that al-Qa'ida has made a general threat against Britain over the matter.
In the rest of the tape, Zawahiri, who is said to be based in the western border areas of Pakistan, calls for a fresh jihad against the West, attacks the Palestinian group Hamas for "compromising" with Israel, and congratulates those who carried out bombings in southern Lebanon that killed six United Nations peacekeepers last month. The al-Qa'ida deputy leader also criticises General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. But he orders that Muslims should not use elections to oppose the Pakistani leader, as the tenets of democracy are against Islam, but join the Taliban forces in Afghanistan and their sympathisers inside Pakistan.
Zawahiri has issued eight video messages this year, along with a number of audio speeches. His previous tape was distributed last week by as-Sahab.
Inayat Bunglawala, a spokes-man for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "To reward Rushdie with a knighthood was an ill thought-out decision. It was bound to cause outrage among many Muslims around the world, considering the way Rushdie portrayed key Islamic figures in his book The Satanic Verses. However, it was quite predictable that al-Qa'ida would use the knighthood to try to further their own goals of polarising Muslims and the West; it was not unexpected."
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We will continue to tackle the threat from international terrorism as a priority in order to prevent the risk of attacks on British interests at home and overseas, including from al-Qaida.
"These terrorists care nothing for the peoples of the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qa'ida has been killing civilians of all faiths, including many fellow Muslims, for years. The Government has already made clear that Rushdie's honour was not intended as an insult to Islam or the Prophet Mohamed. It was a reflection of his contribution to literature throughout a long and distinguished career."