Pakistan is pissed, because on the occasion of the Queen’s birthday, as tradition always has it, someone’s getting knighted. Sir Salman Rushdie, known by many simpletons who never read it only for his splendid book, The Satanic Verses, is once again having trouble with the so-called land of the pure.
Iran accused Britain on Sunday of insulting Islamic values by knighting Rushdie.
Pakistan’s parliament adopted a resolution condemning the knighthood and said Britain should withdraw it.
Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, minister for parliamentary affairs, told parliament: “This is a source of hurt for Muslims and will encourage people to commit blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad.”
“We demand Britain desist from such actions and withdraw the title of knighthood,” he said.
Mohammad Ejaz-ul-Haq, the religious affair minister, said insults to Islam were the cause of terrorism.
“The West always wonders about the root cause of terrorism. Such actions are the root cause of it,” he told parliament.
“If Britain doesn’t withdraw the award, all Muslim countries should break off diplomatic relations.”
This is exactly the sort of nonsense that Rushdie fought against when he was still in hiding after a fatwa had been issued by Khomeini. In a 1989 piece in the New York Review, he had this to say about it:
Nowadays . . . a powerful tribe of clerics has taken over Islam. These are the contemporary Thought Police. They have turned Muhammad into a perfect being, his life into a perfect life, his revelation into the unambiguous, clear event it originally was not. Powerful taboos have been erected. One may not discuss Muhammad as if he were human, with human virtues and weaknesses. One may not discuss the growth of Islam as a historical phenomenon, as an ideology born out of its time. These are the taboos against which The Satanic Verses has transgressed (these and one other: I also tried to write about the place of women in Islamic society, and in the Koran). It is for this breach of taboo that the novel is being anathematized, fulminated against, and set alight.
…The Satanic Verses is not, in my view, an antireligious novel. It is, however, an attempt to write about migration, its stresses and transformations, from the point of view of migrants from the Indian subcontinent to Britain. This is, for me, the saddest irony of all; that after working for five years to give voice and fictional flesh to the immigrant culture of which I am myself a member, I should see my book burned, largely unread, by the people it’s about, people who might find some pleasure and much recognition in its pages. I tried to write against stereotypes; the zealot protests serve to confirm, in the Western mind, all the worst stereotypes of the Muslim world.