Wednesday, 20 June 2007

They Wanted Blood For This?

Everyone should be familiar with the food warning label, "May contain traces of nuts". When you're Hannibal Lecter, that takes on a whole new meaning.

Salman Rushdie got knighted.

The author of novels like Midnight's Children and Shalimar the Clown is, unfortunately, more known for that book with the inflammatory title, The Satanic Verses. Entire nations wanted him dead because of the perceived insults to Islam the book represents.

That clarion call has been repeated when word spread that Rushdie would soon join the ranks of other luminaries like Cliff Richard and Elton John. A price was put on his head (again). British ambassadors were called up (like children sent to the principal's) to "explain". There were brief episodes of effigy-burning and rage-filled calls for blood.

One of these firebrands is the Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister, who attacked the decision, adding that acts like these justified suicide bombings (a slip of the tongue he later retracted). What caught my attention, however, was what Iran's First Deputy Speaker had to say.

"The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th Century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important."

It's mind-boggling that such wisdom can't pre-empt the anger over what he says is an illusion.

And the Muslim world's reaction gives Rushdie's knighthood the significance (and enormity) it does not deserve.

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