"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Rushdie thing

I was delighted to learn a few days ago that Salman Rushdie, a middling novelist with a glamorous young wife as famous as he, has been made a Knight of the Realm by Queen Elizabeth II. I was even more delighted when, amid the predictable outrage from the usual quarters, the British Government calmly rejected the suggestion that the Queen's act was an inexcusable incitement to what would be perfectly excusable terrorism.

I have read The Satanic Verses, the novel that earned Rushdie an assassination fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 and cemented the Umma's loathing for him ever since. It's a good read, but I wouldn't call it a classic either. The man obviously hates the Islam in which he was raised in Bombay, and used the novel to vent that hatred. I am told by a true man of letters that the quality of Rushdie's work has declined over the years. I don't doubt it. People animated by hatred generally spend their spirits, and therefore their creativity, if not in hate than in more subtly corrosive ways. So I can't blame Muslims for loathing him and resenting the honor that's just been bestowed on him. But that hardly matters. What really matters is that, with this act, the relevant powers-that-be have given notice that they are not quite resigned to being dhimmified.

Literary types support Rushdie almost to a person. Some have even complained that Rushdie was not honored in some fashion sooner. That's probably why the committee that proposes candidates for knighthood proposed him; indeed he's always enjoyed the support and protection of the British establishment. That is a good thing even though he's now living in New York, which has a lesser concentration of Muslims than London and thus fewer Muslims who would be happy to kill him. (The way New Yorkers generally feel about radical Islam as a result of 9/11 also gives him a congenial sea to swim in.) But why isn't this stick in the Islamist eye extended on other matters too? Too many among the well-educated, not merely the artistically inclined, still seem to think that while everybody should enjoy enough freedom of speech to blaspheme Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it is unduly "insensitive" to blaspheme the Prophet Muhammad or even to support the right of Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. To such folk and others, I say: use this occasion to wake up. Demand what the Pope calls "reciprocity" and settle for nothing less. If you don't, you may find that you've lost World War III before you knew it was being fought.
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