Author Sir Salman Rushdie's knighthood has been bitterly condemned by the Iranian government.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a press conference that the British government's decision to honour Sir Salman for services to literature reflected the UK's hatred of Islam.

Sir Salman, 59, received a fatwa from the Iranian government in 1989 on the publication of his The Satanic Verses novel, which critics say blasphemes the Prophet Muhammad.

He was forced to exit public life until Iranian officials removed their approval of the fatwa in 1998. The edict remains in place, permitting Muslims to kill Sir Salman, but the 59-year-old has returned to normal life.

Yesterday it was announced in the Queen's birthday honours list that Sir Salman was among 21 individuals receiving a knighthood.

Mr Hosseini responded today by suggesting this approval indicated "obvious anti-Islamism" on the part of senior UK government officials.

He suggested attempts to insult Islam formed part of a much wider conspiracy among western countries and described Sir Salman, who won the Booker Prize for his second novel Midnight's Children, as one of the most hated Muslims in the world.

A Foreign Office spokesman refused to be drawn into suggestions that Mr Hosseini's comments reflected existing tensions between Britain and Iran demonstrated by the Iranian detention of British personnel earlier this year.

"The reasons for Sir Salman's honour are self-explanatory," he said.

17/06/2007 20:41:05