On the Knighting of Salman Rushdie
Last week the author Salman Rushdie was honoured with a Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature. Rushdie has been a target of Islamic hate since his work The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. In 1989, the Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini proclaimed a fatwa against Rushdie. The international Islamic response to Rushdie’s knighthood has been, much like the reaction to the Muhammad cartoons controversy, completely irrational and out of all proportion.
Apparently, if they find a piece of literature blasphemous, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to murder the author in cold blood. Of course, if we happen to like the same piece of literature and honour the author with a title, that is completely unacceptable. Rushdie’s knighthood has been held up as an example of Islamophobia. Any Muslim who holds this view should not flatter himself. The act of knighting Salmon Rushdie was completely neutral towards Islam. It was done neither to please Muslims, nor to upset them, because it did not concern them. The British State wished to reward a highly acclaimed author, and it did so, as was its right.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said
Awarding a person who is one of the most hated figures in the Islamic world is a clear sign of the anti-Islamic stance of high-ranking British officials. …[It proves desecration of Islamic values in the West] is totally organised and done with the support and under the direction of those countries.
To suggest that the act of awarding someone a knighthood for their services to literature is a hostile act against Islam is simply dishonest and dishonourable, and is clearly a blatant attempt to rouse the emotions and cloud the rationality of impressionable Muslims everywhere.
Muslims who take this stance don’t seem to be able to recognise the difference between something that is actually harmful and something that is not. The fact that Muslims were offended by The Satanic Verses does not mean that they were caused any harm by Rushdie, in fact, they were caused no actual, tangible harm at all. Similarly, Rushdie’s knighthood, while offensive to Muslims all over the world, could not possibly cause any real harm to anyone. And finally, to be fair, Muslims speaking out in anger at Salmon Rushdie’s work and his knighthood are not actually harming anyone. All of these examples simply exhibit the enjoyment of the right to free speech.
This failure to recognise the difference between actual and perceived harm is better illustrated by this story, reported by AlertNet:
ISLAMABAD, June 21 (Reuters) – A group of hardline Pakistani Muslim clerics said on Thursday they had bestowed a religious title on Osama bin Laden in response to a British knighthood for author Salman Rushdie.
The Pakistan Ulema Council gave bin Laden the title “Saifullah”, or sword of Allah, in response to the knighthood awarded to Rushdie last week for services to literature.
“If a blasphemer can be given the title ‘Sir’ by the West despite the fact he’s hurt the feelings of Muslims, then a mujahid who has been fighting for Islam against the Russians, Americans and British must be given the lofty title of Islam, Saifullah,” the council’s chairman, Tahir Ashrafi, told Reuters.
Once again, this honour they have bestowed upon Osama bin Laden is offensive, but does not actually harm anyone. What I find alarming, is that they see bin Laden’s actions against the West on a par with Rushdie’s against Islam. The former is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, the latter is not responsible for any harm to anyone, he just writes. Murdering him for what he has written would be another good example of actual harm, as opposed to perceived harm.
Mohammad Reza Bahonar, vice speaker of the Majlis of Iran, also had something very telling to say,
Salman Rushdie has turned into a hated corpse which cannot be resurrected by any action. The action by the British queen in knighting Salman Rushdie, the apostate, is an unwise one. The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important.
If bestowing titles is not important, then why the fuss? The answer is simply that on this occasion, it offered an excuse for militant Muslims to go out of their way to be offended, yet again. This simply comes down to a question of power, and every time Islam gets to exploit a situation like this their grip on the politically correct, vulnerable Western world tightens a little bit more.
The Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister, Mohammad Ejaz-ul-Haq, had no hesitation in using a shrouded threat of terrorism as a political lever, while demanding that the honour be retracted.
If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified
He later clarified this comment, saying that terrorist acts would not be justified, but that
militants could use the knighthood as a justification
Whether Pakistani politicians would condone acts of terrorism is not important, what I find disgraceful is that these words are clearly intended to intimidate the British Government. The hypocrisy of maintaining their ‘right’ to kill Salmon Rushdie while crying out in agony at a harmless, arbitrary ceremony which, by their own admission, they do not acknowledge, is breathtaking.
This is what happens when human beings value the happiness of gods over the happiness of human beings. As Voltaire once said,
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
In the enlightened age of the 21st century, when we should be leaving both far behind us, radical Islam is taking both absurdity and atrocity to new levels.