Al Qaeda threatens ‘response’ to Rushdie’s knighthood
* Zawahri accuses Queen Elizabeth of being under ‘Jewish control’
* Praises last month’s attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon
* Urges Pakistanis to defy President Musharraf and support Afghan militants
DUBAI: Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri said on Tuesday the group was preparing a “precise response” to Britain’s decision to knight author Salman Rushdie.
“I say to Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair that your message has reached us and we are in the process of preparing for you a precise response,” Zawahiri said in an audio recording posted on an Internet website often used by Islamic militants.
The queen had knighted Rushdie last month in her birthday honours list, prompting condemnation from a number of Muslim countries and organisations. The author is accused by some Muslims of blaspheming Islam in his novel “The Satanic Verses”, which triggered an international outcry when it was first published in 1988.
The Indian-born Rushdie, 59, was forced to go into hiding for a decade after erstwhile Iranian supreme leader Aytatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death sentence over the book in 1989.
Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in January 2005 that he still believed the British novelist was an apostate whose killing would be authorised by Islam.
Following Rushdie’s knighting, Iran said the death sentence still stood. “The stance of the Islamic Republic of Iran on this issue has not changed from what was put forward by Imam Khomeini,” foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Ali Hosseini said.
In the audio message billed “Malicious Britain and its Indian Slaves”, Zawahiri said Britain was hypocritical for giving Rushdie the knighthood under the banner of freedom of speech. He said the least Muslims could do was to boycott Britain to protest Rushdie’s knighthood.
“Why don’t they honour the British historian David Irving? The queen did not honour him because she cannot rebel against the Jews, who are her masters,” he said.
Irving had spent 13 months in jail in Austria following a conviction there for Holocaust denial. Zawahiri also warned Britain’s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, to alter his state’s foreign policy.
“The policy of your predecessor Tony Blair has brought tragedy and defeat upon you not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in the centre of London. If you did not learn the lesson, we are prepared to repeat, God willing, until you have understood,” he said.
Zawahiri also praised an attack last month on UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in which six soldiers were killed. “This operation came as a response against the invading Crusader forces who were occupying a beloved part of the land of Islam,” he said.
Zawahiri also urged Hamas in the Palestininan territories to wage holy war against Israel and called on Muslims in Pakistan to resist their “corrupt” president, General Pervez Musharraf, by offering moral and financial support to militants in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“An Islamic emirate in Afghanistan is the hope for real change in the region and hopefully the final blow to the Crusaders in South Asia,” he said. It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape.
On Monday, a British court found four men guilty over a failed Islamist plot to set off bombs in London two weeks after the 2005 bombing. At the end of June, just two days after Brown took over from Blair, two car bombs were discovered in central London. In Scotland a flaming Jeep Cherokee slammed into Glasgow airport’s main terminal the following day.
On Sunday, Britian’s new Security and Counter-Terrorism Minister Sir Alan West had said that Britain was facing a 15-year battle against Islamist extremism. West told the Sunday Telegraph that Britain was facing its greatest threat yet.
“This is not a quick thing. I believe it will take 10 to 15 years. But I think it can be done as long as we as a nation apply ourselves to it and it’s done across the board,” he said.
His comments came as Brown called on countries to cooperate more in sharing information on potential terror suspects. agencies