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Apostates!

Salman Rushdie’s knighthood has, predictably, upset the Iranian authorities. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said the decision to praise “the apostate” had “insulted Islamic sanctities,” before wheeling out the familiar stall of pretension, gasbaggery and affected victimhood:

“Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is... a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials… Paying tribute to this apostate and detested figure will definitely put British statesmen and officials at odds with Islamic societies, the emotions and sentiments of which have again been provoked.”

Today, and no less predictably, the Guardian ran a generically tendentious piece by Priyamvada Gopal, a lecturer in literature and “postcolonial studies” at Cambridge University:

“More interesting is the question of why this ‘honour’ comes now and what Rushdie's alacrity in accepting it tells us about politics and letters in our times… Driven underground and into despair by zealotry, Rushdie finally emerged blinking into New York sunshine shortly before the towers came tumbling down. Those formidable literary powers would now be deployed not against, but in the service of, an American regime that had declared its own fundamentalist monopoly on the meanings of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’…

[Rushdie] is iconic of a more pernicious trend: liberal literati who have assented to the notion that humane values, tolerance and freedom are fundamentally Western ideas that have to be defended as such… Now [Rushdie] recalls his own creation Baal, the talented poet who becomes a giggling hack corralled into attacking his ruler's enemies.”

One might, I think, argue that Rushdie’s defence of basic, universal freedoms has little to do with being “corralled” by “his rulers” (whoever they might be) and rather more to do with the countless followers of a “most merciful” Allah who wish to murder him due to their own hysterical vanities. And perhaps it has something to do with a painful realisation that much of the “liberal literati” is unwilling to defend either him or the freedoms now at stake.

Oddly, Ms Gopal seems unconcerned by the passive-aggressive pretensions of Mr Hosseini, now so commonplace, or by the explicitly genocidal intent of the government he represents – factors, among so many, that would appear to support Rushdie’s position rather than her own. Nor, it seems, is she concerned by the fanatics who burned a novel they hadn’t read, or the psychopaths who hunted down and murdered translators of that novel, or those who set fire to occupied buildings as an act of protest and piety. Or indeed by the familiar pattern established by those acts. Instead, Gopal’s indignation is aimed at Rushdie’s criticism of violence committed in the name of Islam and his support for ousting the Taliban – an act that allowed almost 4 million exiled Muslims to return to their homes and which allowed millions of young girls to resume an education forbidden by the Taliban. But such are the moral priorities of the esteemed educator, Priyamvada Gopal.

I scarcely need to point out that Mr Hosseini and Ms Gopal have something in common. Both dislike apostates, albeit of different kinds. In Ms Gopal’s case, Rushdie’s sin is to depart from the guilt-clotted gospel clung to by Ms Gopal and so many of her peers.

Update: More on this at Normblog.

Update 2: Speaking of predictable, the madness begins. More here. Doubtless we can expect more threats, burning and hysteria after Friday prayers. Note that the BBC website asks, apparently in all seriousness: “Is Mr Rushdie's award an insult to Islam?” Readers aren’t, of course, asked whether the Muslims calling for the murder of a novelist are an affront to civilisation.

Related, this.

Comments

Brendan_2

And more absurd religious sentiments offended in Pakistan:

[Pakistan's minister for parliamentary affairs, Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, who proposed the resolution condemning the honour, branded Rushdie a "blasphemer".

She told MPs: "The 'sir' title from Britain for blasphemer Salman Rushdie has hurt the sentiments of the Muslims across the world. Every religion should be respected. I demand the British government immediately withdraw the title as it is creating religious hatred."]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/pakistan/Story/0,,2105748,00.html

Amazing.

Brendan_2

That of course in an article quoting the protesters as follows:

[MPs said the honour was an insult to the religious sentiments of Muslims. In the eastern city of Multan, hardline Muslim students burned effigies of the Queen and Rushdie, chanting "Kill him! Kill him!"]

David

Brendan,

Thanks. I saw much the same via the BBC. See update above.

Vegas Art Guy

...start sarcasam

And we're shocked why? This is the religion of peace after all. They would never actually call for the death of someone they disagree with...

...end sarcasam

Martin

Did you see this from the Pakistani religious affairs minister, Mohammend Ijaz ul-Haq:

"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 apologizes and withdraws the 'sir' title."

When the minister is next in the UK, perhaps for a nice 'inter-faith' conference, he should be asked if he stands by this threat - I think there could be a case for a citizen's' arrest under the anti-terror laws.

See my own thoughts on the 'Sir Salman' affair on my blog (Martin in the Margins)

David

Martin,

Ul-Haq’s statement neatly conveys the moral inversion of Islamist belief. Oh, and thanks for the link (pasted below):

http://martininthemargins.blogspot.com/2007/06/warm-and-not-so-warm-welcomes-for-sir.html

The letter by Lisa Appignanesi is interesting and explains the probable reasoning behind the knighthood. What’s more interesting, I think, is that so many of the comments below Gopal’s Guardian article are concerned with Rushdie’s literary merits (or lack thereof), as if that were the paramount concern. The fact that a British citizen has been threatened with murder, repeatedly, for writing a novel and subsequently criticising an oppressive and primitive ideology is, oddly, being avoided. I suppose that tells us something about the priorities of many Guardian readers.

Josh Scholar

I did not know that there such a subject as "postcolonial studies". Oh God!

Ric Locke

I did not know that there such a subject as "postcolonial studies". -- Josh Scholar

There isn't. There's a pretentious pseudoacademic scam by that name. Its practitioners studiosly ignore any and all instances of actually existing colonialism in favor of vociferously denouncing, e.g., the opening of a McDonald's as "Imperialist".

Glenn the Lawyer

"Hysterical vanities": Could there be a more perfect phrase for the normal behavioral reactions of the Neanderthal segment of the human race? You should trademark it, David.

mojo

I confess to being agnostic on the subject of Rushdie - whose book I found to be numbingly uninteresting when I tried to read it.

The Iranian Mullahs, on the other hand, can go straight to Iblis for all I care. Putting out contracts on writers and translators, and then getting offended when people call your barbaric act barbaric is about the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. Of course, I don't get around much in Islamic shitholes, so take that opinion for what it's worth.

Ophelia Benson

Man...Bari is a piece of work.

>>Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said many Muslims would regard the knighthood as the final insult from Tony Blair before he leaves office next week. "Salman Rushdie earned notoriety amongst Muslims for the highly insulting and blasphemous manner in which he portrayed early Islamic figures," Dr Bari said. "The granting of a knighthood to him can only do harm to the image of our country in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world. Many will interpret the knighthood as a final contemptuous parting gift from Tony Blair to the Muslim world."

Note the failure to mention the slightly more serious matter of the fatwa, and of the murder of the Japanese translator - why doesn't he worry about that insult? Because he has a warped sense of priorities, that's why.

David

Ophelia,

See today’s post for more on Bari’s priorities. Like his predecessor, he’s a dissembler and a moral cretin. And possibly something much worse.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/06/image_problem.html

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