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Pakistani businessmen from Islamabad Traders Association pledge $160,000 dollars to anyone "who beheads Rushdie"

June 22, 2007

Pakistani traders put 80,000 bounty on Rushdie's head

By Jerome Taylor

Published: 23 June 2007

A group of Pakistani businessmen have offered a reward to anyone who beheads Salman Rushdie as worldwide protests against the author's knighthood increased.

The leader of the Islamabad Traders Association, Ajmal Baloch, offered a bounty of more than 82,000. During a rally in Islamabad's central Aabpara market, Mr Baloch called on Islamic countries to boycott British goods and announced: "We will give 10m rupees to anyone who beheads Rushdie."

Further protests against the knighthood broke out in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad as worshippers filed out of Friday prayers. The numbers attending the rallies were generally in their low hundreds and were led by the more radical of the country's numerous Islamist parties. More than 300 protesters rallied in Islamabad chanting "Damn Rushdie" and "Down with Britain".

Liaquat Baloch, parliamentary leader of the MMA alliance of religious parties, said: "Rushdie hurt the feelings of the Islamic world by writing a blasphemous book. Awarding the knighthood is an attempt to weaken the ongoing dialogue between religions."

Pakistan's parliament called on the British Government for a second time to withdraw the honour.

In Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, a strike ordered by the rebel group Jamiat-ul-Mujahedeen shut down shops, businesses and schools. Stone-throwing protesters chanting "Hang Salman Rushdie" were dispersed by police firing tear gas.

A small protest was also held outside Regent's Park Mosque in London, largely by former members of the banned radical group al-Muhajiroun.

Rushdie became a hate figure across much of the Islamic world after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses in 1989, which many Muslims felt insulted their faith. Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomenei issued a fatwa calling for his death.

During Friday prayers at Tehran's main mosque, an Iranian religious leader reminded worshippers that Khomeini's fatwa was still in place. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami stopped short of calling for the fatwa to be carried out but said: "In Islamic Iran, the revolutionary fatwa of the Imam [Khomeini] is still alive and cannot be changed. They [Britain] have honoured him only because he insulted the Prophet. In such a situation, honouring him means confronting 1.5 billion Muslims around the world."

Many Pakistanis were playing down the protests.Some have even suggested that President Pervez Musharraf was happy to encourage the crisisto distract people from anti-government protests.

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