Salman Rushdie and British Backbone

Is the knighting of Salman Rushdie, 60, by the queen of England "a sign of the changing mood" toward British Muslims, as Observer columnist Nick Cohen wrote? Is it "a welcome example of … British backbone," as Islamism specialist Sadanand Dhume described it in the Wall Street Journal?

I think not. Rather, the knighting, announced June 16, was done without heed of its implications.

Most of the uproar against the honor is taking place in Pakistan, as it did in 1988, when Sir Salman's novel, The Satanic Verses, was initially published. "We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said The lower house of parliament unanimously passed a government-backed resolution calling Rushdie a "blasphemer."

Most extraordinarily, Pakistan's minister of religious affairs, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, endorsed suicide bombing against the United Kingdom. "If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the ‘sir' title." Ijaz ul-Haq later added that "If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified."

A trade union offered a $160,000 reward to anyone who beheads Rushdie. Iran's speaker of parliament, Gholamali Haddadadel, threatened that Muslims "will not leave this imprudent and shameless act without response."

 Such reactions from on-high spurred Islamists to the streets in many cities, including London's, burning effigies of Rushdie and Queen Elizabeth and chanting slogans such as "Death to Rushdie! Death to the queen!"

Fortunately, some Muslims decried these reactions. Canadian writer Irshad Manji noted that the Pakistani government had nothing to say about "assaults on fellow believers" in Kabul and Baghdad, where Islamist terrorism killed more than 100 Muslims. "I am offended that amid the internecine carnage, a professed atheist named Salman Rushdie tops the to-do list," she wrote.

These Islamist threats extend a drama begun on Valentine's Day, 1989 when Ayatollah Khomeini issued his death edict against Rushdie, stating that "the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses – which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur'an and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly."

That very day, I went on television and predicted that the novelist would never escape the edict. He, however, experimented with appeasement in 1990 and with self-delusion since 1998, when the Iranian foreign minister declared his government no longer intent on murdering him. Rushdie wishfully deemed this "a breakthrough," concluding that the Khomeini edict "will be left to wither on the vine."

I warned Rushdie in 1998 against his giddy insistence on being in the clear. For one, the edict remained in place; Iranian leaders do not believe themselves competent to undo it (a point reiterated by an ayatollah, Ahmad Khatami, just the other day). For another, freelancers around the globe could still nominate themselves to fulfill Khomeini's call to action.

But Rushdie and his friends ignored these apprehensions. Christopher Hitchens, for example, thought Rushdie had returned to normal life. That became conventional wisdom; such insouciance and naïveté – rather than "backbone" – best explains awarding the knighthood.

I welcome the knighting because, for all his political mistakes, Rushdie is indeed a fine novelist. I wish I could agree with Dhume that this recognition of him suggests "the pendulum has begun to swing" in Britain against appeasing radical Islam.

But I cannot. Instead, I draw two conclusions: First, Rushdie should plan around the fact of Khomeini's edict being permanent, to expire only when he does. Second, the British government should take seriously the official Pakistani threat of suicide terrorism, which amounts to a declaration of war and an operational endorsement. So far, it has not done that.

Other than an ambassadorial statement of "deep concern," Whitehall insists that the minister's threat will not harm a "very good relationship" with Pakistan. It has even indicated that Ijaz ul-Haq is welcome in Britain if on a private visit. (Are suicide bombers also welcome, so long as they are not guests of the government?) Until the Pakistani authorities retract and apologize for Ijaz ul-Haq's outrageous statement, London must not conduct business-as-usual with Islamabad.

Now that would constitute "British backbone."

Daniel Pipes

By

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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  • Guest

    While i agree with most of what Daniel Pipes says,i would just like to point out she is NOT the Queen of England.Her territory covers a lot more than England.We in Scotland pay taxes towards a bunch of elitists

    who,i personally,don't believe in.Bring on the Republic,but not as expensive as the American Presidency.Talk about certain actions,Daniel,

    causing resentment,you just annoyed one anti-monarchist with three words,"Queen of ENGLAND".Why should an anti-monarchist care what she is called?

  • Guest

    I think it's some backbone with a large dose of British arrogance. Especially now with all the tensions. What Islam has to learn is that the time of blood vengance is over as a method of enforcing it's will. The queen has demonstrated her sovereignty whether we like Rushdie or not. Christiandom has given the brutal world a level of civilization that deals properly with these differences. We only ask of Islam to afford us the same level of respect that we afford it. If this knighting demonstrates that the west will not cower to Islam's threats, it's worth it. To that I say: Good show!

    Goral

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    Yes – noblesse oblige does seem to bear arrogance on its head, strongly – must civilize those Pakis by example, hey what?

    daffodil, its our Parliament – er, Congress – that gets us into expensive inanity and vote-buying. For all the likes of Reid and Lugar know all about how lost Iraq is (how strange! – the common enlisted man doesn’t agree with them . . .) they can’t seem to lose the address to my wallet!

    And, between Islamism and what I hear about China, whose Tiananmen-violating military budget may be 90% sub rosa, Russia with its new oil-rich Putin-pusch ways, Kim il Sung’s NoKorea’s and Iranian nuclear abilities, etc., the days of free republics may be numbered. Take THOSE thoughts to your prayers.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    MY BAD! Hit ‘Go’ twice . . . please ignore – except for all the true love above and below

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    What are you talking about , that she's not the Queen of England.  Of couse she is.

    'Pakis' is not an appropriate word to use.

    I don't like what the extremists are doing, but I also don't like blasphemy.  What we do if someone blasphemed our religion?  yes, we wouldn't take a life for it – but is it right for someone to do this?  No

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    deirdrew, ‘Pakis’ is my mockery of the clueless imperial still lurking in British hearts . . .

    Another’s blasphemy gives me great cause to Sign myself, and maybe beg the one not to call on Someone he clearly doesn’t know very well. For, even blasphemy has the angle that it reaches God as surely as prayer – our call to Him.

    Rushdie’s Verses even from an atheist does beg just who Muhammud heard. The Prophet himself thought it was Satan, at first. His religious result does have this odor of both Christian and Judaist heresy; in recent centuries, Muslim ethic has run diametrically opposed to Judeao-Christian progress in all its aspects. Maybe, just maybe, Islamist extremism (and ‘moderate Muslim’ silence) is evidence that his first impression was dead-on . . .

    Though, I must admit, if I was going to go after such ‘infidel heretics’, I’d strap the dynamite to THEM, not me . . .

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    deirdrew

     I'll allow for you just having a laugh.If she IS just the Queen of England,perhaps you can let the Government know that a lot of us Scots are republicans who no longer wish to pay for them.Get the

    Orange Order to pay for them.I'm supposed to be retired but still pay tax.Not because i am wealthy,but because i am a bachelor with no

    dependents.

    The word Paki is an abbreviation of the word Pakistani.If people didn't like Pakistanis,they wouldn't buy anything out of their shops.Especially nowadays when supermarkets are even open round the clock.At one time,the bigger stores closed about 5.30pm and we were more dependent on the later closing Pakistani shops.Is it blasphemy to call a Scot "Jock" or an Irishman "Paddy"?It is the way the word is used.

    "Jock" and "Paddy" are sometimes used in a derogatory way,just like "Paki".Some over-sensitive Englishmen object to being called "Pommie" . 

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