Britain will not apologize for its decision to bestow a knighthood on writer Salman Rushdie, UK Home Secretary John Reid said Wednesday, 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 US business leaders in New York.
"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 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.
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.