On Salman Rushdie, Knighthood, and Fatwas

Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie is soon to be knighted for his contributions to English literature.

Not being a British subject, I don’t care who the Queen knights. It doesn’t affect me, it’s not my call. I’ve never read any of Rushdie’s work–no, not even The Satanic Verses–but if the Queen believes his work is worthy of a knighthood, so be it.

In the Islamic world, the reaction to Rushdie’s knighthood is sharply different than mine.

Pakistan, Iran–nations that aren’t British subjects, nations that don’t have a say in who the Queen does or doesn’t bestow a knighthood upon. Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Ejaz-ul-Haq weighed in on the subject. The BBC paraphrased him as saying:

Britain’s knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie contributes to insulting Islam and may lead to terrorism. Such actions are the root cause of terrorism.

And then, these two actual quotes: “If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammed, his act is justified” and “If Britain doesn’t withdraw the award, all Muslim countries should break of diplomatic relations.” Pakistan’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister adds this choice nugget: the knighthood will “encourage people to commit blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed.”

We should back up. Perhaps I should explain what Rushdie did to rile the Islamic world.

He wrote a novel in the late 1980s entitled The Satanic Verses. In countries like Iran the book was denounced for painting Islam and the proophet Mohammed in a poor light, and Rushdie himself was accused of blasphemy. Iran issued a fatwa, calling for Rushdie’s murder, in 1989.

(Now, I suspect that those who were the angriest about the book never actually read the book, but why let facts get in the way? That’s just human nature.)

Islam is very sensitive to how it’s portrayed. Mohammed isn’t to be depicted (hence the row over the Danish editorial cartoons). Qu’ranic scholarship is actively discouraged. (In that sense, they’re a lot like Mormons.) Anything that has the perception of being contrary to Islam is potentially blasphemous.

So, I have to ask.

If Salman Rushdie can be subject to a fatwa order for The Satanic Verses, where’s the fatwa against Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins? Or even me, for that matter?

Because Hitchens, Dawkins–even I–as atheists are far more contrary to Islam than Rushdie. The Satanic Verses mocked Islam and Mohammed. Atheists, by their very existence, mock god. “Fuck that god shit,” I’ve said a couple dozen times in my life. God doesn’t exist. We know god doesn’t exist. Our very existence tells a theist that they’re full of shit. That’s got to rankle.

Maybe atheists get a pass on fatwas because we’re not just contrary to Allah, we’re contrary to all gods. But that makes Islam inconistent in its practice.

I want my fatwa, dammit! What do I have to do? Call Mohammed a plagarist? Call Mohammed a male prostitute? Accuse Mohammed of carnal knowledge of male pigs? What do I have to do? Fuck Mohammed!

What the Queen does in knighting Rushdie is her business, not Pakistan’s or Iran’s. We may not like what other countries do, but we generally don’t go about ordering murders and suggesting terrorist attacks in reply. The Islamic world needs to get over itself. the Queen should say, “Thank you, Pakistan. Now, piss off as we are not amused.” 😆

3 thoughts on “On Salman Rushdie, Knighthood, and Fatwas

  1. I haven’t read Satanic Verses (yet, it’s in my pile), but I have read his subsequent novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which was a reaction to the furor surrounding Satanic Verses, and that is quite enjoyable.

  2. Salman’s an apostate, Allyn.
    The rest of you are mere infidels.
    So he gets a personal fatwa, and you lot have to wait for the day of judgement.

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