Sunday, 17 June 2007
Iran condemns knighthood for Sir Salman Rushdie
Iran has today condemned the decision to confer a knighthood on Sir Salman Rushdie, the Booker Prize winning author of "The Satanic Verses". It was the publication, in 1989, of this controversial novel which prompted Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a "Fatwa" (death warrant) against the Indian-born, Rugby and Cambridge educated British citizen, forcing him to spend almost a decade in hiding.
Iran formally revoked the fatwa in 1998 however some Islamic clerics maintain that it is irrevocable and have urged their followers to kill Rushdie.
Speaking earlier today, Iranian spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini declared that "Honouring and commending an apostate and hated figure will definitely put the British officials in (a position) of confrontation with Islamic societies."
Hosseini continued: "Giving a badge to one of the most hated figures in Islamic society is basically an obvious example of fighting against Islam by high-ranking British officials."
Whilst I have no particular interest in Sir Salman's novels I am pleased to see him honoured as his knighthood demonstrates that whilst honouring our own we will not be intimidated or influenced by outside political pressures.
It is of course ludicrous to claim that this honour is "an obvious example of fighting against Islam by high-ranking British officials." Were this true we would not have seen a 2005 knighthood bestowed by The Queen upon Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, described by The Guardian as the "Most Influential Muslim in the UK".
Rather than criticise the British government, Iran should congratulate Britain for having recently raised a number of British Muslims to the highest ranks of British Society as members of the House of Lords. These include Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, the first Muslim peer; Lord Patel of Blackburn, leader of the British Hajj Delegation; Baroness Falkner of Margravine; and Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green.
Of course this incident does give rise to the question: Which is the greater honour? To have received a Fatwa or a Knighthood? Certainly in the case of Sir Salman both are badges of distinction, one demonstrating his commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of expression and the other acknowledging his contribution to literature.
A hearty congratulations to Sir Salman Rushdie, Knight Bachelor.