Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Storm Brewing Over Rushdie Knighthood

There is a storm brewing, and no one is noticing. It’s not out in the Atlantic, and it won’t produce torrential rains. But it packs the same uncertainty and potential for destruction associated with the hurricanes we’ve experienced in the past few years.

The storm is the anger and frustration from the Muslim community. We saw a similar storm produced by the publishing of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. We also saw a similar storm brewing when thousands of Lebanese civilians were killed in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah last year, but the storm fizzled over land as so many hurricanes do.

This storm brews over an offense to the religion of Islam itself. The eye of this storm focuses on the knighting of Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses”, a book which basically proposes the theory that the prophet Mohammed was fooled by the Devil as opposed to being enlightened by God. The book proposes that Islam needs to be theologically reviewed.

After writing “The Satanic Verses”, the late Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa death warrant against Rushdie, sending him into hiding for 18 years. That death warrant has never been lifted, and now Islamic extremists have placed an 80,000 pound bounty on the author’s head. Mohammad Reza Bahonar, first deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament, addressed the Rushdie incident in parliament:

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.

Tasnim Aslam, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, indicated that the appointment of knighthood to Rushdie is an insensitive act towards the Muslim community:

He was told that Salman Rushdie has been a controversial figure who is known less for his literary contribution and more for his offensive and insulting writing which deeply hurts the sentiments of Muslims all over the world. Conferment of a knighthood on Salman Rushdie shows an utter lack of sensitivity on the part of the British government.

Gerald Butt, editor of the Middle East Economic Survey, said:

It will be interpreted as an action calculated to goad Muslims at a time when the atmosphere is already very tense and Britain’s standing in the region is very low because of its involvement in Iraq and its lack of action in tackling the Palestine issue.

Just like the protests following the publication of cartoons of Mohammed, protests are beginning to spring up in Muslim communities around the world. In Pakistan, effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth, were burnt during protests. In Multan, Karachi and Lahore, hundreds of protestors set fire to British flags and called for “Death to Britain, Death to Rushdie”. A party at the British embassy in Tehranand to celebrate Rushdie was also protested, as Muslims threw stones, eggs, and paint filled bags.

Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan’s Religious affairs minister, provided the most troubling statement.

This is an occasion for the world's 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision. The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so, unless the British government apologises and withdraws the 'sir' title.

Only time will tell if we are looking at the beginning of mass protests in Muslim communities throughout the world, or if this storm will fizzle as others have in the past. But this storm is an important one to watch. It is a storm which is rapidly picking up steam, and even if it turns into a dud, this storm may contribute to the bigger storm that I have worried about for some time now.

Posted by Scottage at 12:00 AM / | |