In the latest round of British Knighting ceremonies, Salman Rushdie ( along with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Ian Botham and a KGB Double Agent) were awarded the Knighthood and some other Orders of rather obscure nature (detailed below) by Queen Elizabeth.
Exactly what tangible purpose is served by knighthoods or a Companion of the British Empire (CBE) or Companion to the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) fails me. Apart from harking back to an Imperial past and an increasingly redundant aristocracy – it doesn’t mean anything very tangible. And isn’t very important to anyone at all. A British Knighthood isn’t the Nobel Prize. And doesn’t come with a cash award.
Promptly after the announcement, half a world away in Multan Pakistan, protests and violence broke out. Muslim students took to the street accusing Mr. Rushdie of blasphemy and other things. To make things even more comical, Mr. Mohammed Ijaz Ul-Haq ( Pakistan Religious Affairs Minister and a man of very dubious lineage – being the son of former dictator Zia Ul-Haq) allegedly commented that Mr. Rushdie had committed blasphemy and the soldiers of Islam had the right to avenge it with “Suicide Bombings”. Then apparently under pressure from the Pakistani Foreign Office, he retracted the statement.
The other usual suspect in anything Rushdie – Iran – was not to be outdone. It too, condemned the knighthood – though they didn’t take to the streets and engage in the usual buffoonery of burning effigies ( and public buses, private cars or anything they could get their hands on)
So the Islamic world is “outraged” again. For awards of very dubious importance awarded in the UK. And when everyday, within the muslim world, the Shias and Sunnis kill innocent men, women, children, even babies – not a pipsqueak of outrage. When Sunnis bombed the Askariya mosque in Samarra – twice – I didn’t see any Osama effigy burning in the streets of Cairo or Damascus or Tehran.
And its ironic, the biggest protest is in the country of America’s greatest ally in the war against the Taliban.