Source AP ©

Britain does not regret its decision of bestowing knighthood on writer Salman Rushdie

Britain will not apologize for bestowing a knighthood on writer Salman Rushdie, highlighting the need to protect freedom of expression in literature and politics.

"We have a set of values that accrues people honors for their contribution to literature even when they don't agree with our point of view," Reid said in response to a question after a speech to U.S. business leaders in New York. Rushdie has been accused of blasphemy by Iran's former supreme leader for his book "The Satanic Verses."

"We have a right to express opinions and a tolerance of other people's point of view, and we don't apologize for that," Reid said.

Reid's comments, first reported by the Press Association news agency and confirmed by his press office, came a day after street protesters in Pakistan burned effigies of Rushdie and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and a Pakistani minister said the award could justify suicide bombings.

Also Wednesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said during a visit to London that he respected the right of Britain to decide who received the honor. But he said the decision could be used to cause trouble.

"Iraq is a Muslim country," he said. "We believe that, with all due respect to the knighthood, I think it was untimely.

Britain announced Saturday that it would award Rushdie a knighthood, along with honoring CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour and several others, including a KGB double agent.

Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the writer because his book, "The Satanic Verses," allegedly insulted Islam. The threat forced Rushdie to live in hiding for a decade.