sacrilege and sir salman

Posted on June 18, 2007

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Salman Rushdie is one of the most sublime authors in the English language.

So no one should be surprised that he is granted a knighthood to honor his considerable literary achievements.

The British ought to stick to their guns on this one and refuse to give in to blackmail, even as Islamist elements in Pakistan and Iran are protesting their rage and demanding a retraction of the knighthood. The UK government is sovereign and has every right to knight whomever it chooses, not least Rushdie, because of his literary accomplishments but also for his moral courage to write exactly what he thought and for braving the fatwa issued by ayatollahs for his death for a decade. The fatwa was in response to his book The Satanic Verses, which Muslims had claimed is blasphemous.

While Muslims have a right to protest, some of their more extreme comments are unlikely to gain sympathy, but perhaps more fear, suspicion and revulsion across the world.

What’s more disturbing is that a Pakistani minister had actually said Rushdie’s knighting is “justification” for suicide bomb attacks and is the root cause of terrorism.

“If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honor of the Prophet then it is justified,” Pakistan’s religious affairs minister told the National Assembly. He went as far as to suggest that Pakistan and other Muslim countries ought to suspend ties with the UK if the knighthood was not retracted.

Iranian officials have issued similarly threatening and hardline threats to Rushdie’s life.

Another radical group, the Organization to Commemorate Martyrs of the Muslim World, even offered Rushdie’s successful assassin a $150,000 reward.

It’s bad enough when fringe groups like that get all hysterical over what they perceive are the smallest slights, but when government officials do so too, that’s downright frightening.

This is a serious step back for Islam and moderate Muslims. These extremists hijack the agenda and the religion, ruining things for the majority of moderate Muslim practitioners that are progressive and tolerant. Senseless calls for murder is not going to help Islam’s image anytime soon and would instead entrench stereotypes of its being radical, backward, and violent. This troubling standard of not only suppressing freedom of expression but also threatening to kill others for having a difference of opinion is deeply troubling, even barbaric.

There should be no justification whatsoever for senseless and indiscriminate murder, especially of innocent lives who might be lost should the attack be carried out by a suicide bomber. Until radical Muslims start respecting the beliefs and lives of others, there is no way they would gain respect.

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Posted in: freedom, islam, religion, uk