Monday, June 18, 2007

Rushdie knighthood

The Iranian government didn't react very well to this news:
"Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the decision to grant Britain's highest honor to Rushdie, who wrote the controversial novel The Satanic Verses, was an insult to the Muslim world.

"Awarding a person who is among the most detested characters in the Islamic society is obvious proof of anti-Islamism by ranking British officials," said Hosseini during his weekly press conference."
Ophelia Benson has a good point about the way so many of our journalists seem to accept uncritically people like Mohammad Ali Hosseini's claims to speak for the 'whole Muslim world', or 'Islamic society' in general:
"It's terribly misleading to say that Rushdie's novel 'offended Muslims worldwide' without qualification. There's an enormous amount wrong with that offhand statement. One, many and probably most people who were 'offended' by Rushdie's novel never read it, so the simple and active phrasing there - his book offended Muslims - is just inaccurate. An accurate version would be something more like 'some Muslims were offended by what they heard or were told about Rushdie's novel and by the fact that he had written it.'"
Quite - and there's always the possibility that some Muslims who read the book quite liked it. Or alternatively read it and were only slightly miffed. Because there does seem to be a correlation - or at least something of an overlap - between books exciting strong passions and getting themselves filed under 'divine' and 'diabolical' and the books in question not actually getting read all the way through.

Update: Seems the Pakistani parliament and some members of the government has pitched in too:
"Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, the Pakistani minister for Parliamentary Affairs who proposed today's resolution, called Rushdie a "blasphemer" and said that the title would cause offence to the religious sentiments of Muslims. "Every religion should be respected," he told Pakistan’s National Assembly, "I demand the British government immediately withdraw the title as it is creating religious hatred," Mr Niazi added."
Respecting religion is mandatory and the manner in which this respect is to be demonstrated prescribed. Oh, and by the way - this is a demand that knows no national boundaries. Since those of us who believe it would be desirable for free-speech to be universally recognised are these days routinely denounced as espousing some kind of cultural imperialism, I trust these demands of the Pakistani parliament will be criticised in similar terms.

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