Just when I thought that the old lion was irrevocably lost to dhimmitude, it has roared again. Finally, a well deserved knighthood for courage and bravery to defend the honor of lady liberty! Praise be unto the Queen of England, and congratulations, Sir Rushdie! Britain has shown the world that it still has a backbone by conferring knighthood on the redoubtable author of Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie. On the heels of this British affirmation of freedom of expression, will other States around the world come out of the closet, and reveal that they too are vertebrates? Will Netherlands revalidate Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Dutch citizenship, and honor her with an Order of Orange-Nassau? Will Denmark bestow its Order of the Dannebrog on Jyllands-Posten? Who knows, even India may now decide to felicitate Taslima Nasreen with a Sahitya Academy Award!
Enough of day dreaming. Let me turn to the ground reality in the Islamic world. As even a five year old would have predicted, it screamed in outrage and bared it oft-pictured teeth:
Protesters in Pakistan burnt the British flag and the effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Rushdie. The nation's religious affairs minister (do they really need a separate one?), Ejaz ul-Haq, sought to justify suicide bombing to defend their prophet's honor:
If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honor of the prophet, then it is justified.
Is it me or is he exonerating the faithfuls to heed the bidding of the Koran to avenge Britain's "misdeed"? Shiite Iran, lest anyone should doubt their loyalty to their beloved prophet was less than their Sunni neighbor, followed with protests of its own. The rest of the usual suspects Kashmir, Malaysia, Taliban, etc. soon joined the bandwagon. Several fresh fatwas and bounties were announced for Sir Rushdie's head. Why do these fellows think that their prophet's honor is so fragile to be threatened by an infidel's title conferred on an apostate, I wonder!
Britain has responded to all these saber rattlings in a manner befitting a civilized democracy that it is. Home Secretary John Reid dismissed the criticism with,
We have very strong laws about promoting racial intolerance. It isn't a free-for-all. We've thought very carefully about it. But we have a right to express opinions and a tolerance of other people's point of view, and we don't apologise for that.
Well said, Mr. Reid! Sir Rushdie has every right to criticize Mr. Mohamed's writings, just as any Joe Bloke on the street, including Mr. Ejaz ul-Haq, has the right to criticize Sir Rushdie's writings. A civilized nation, however, should not allow its accolades to be held to ransom by a few or many ignoramus, who might be offended by such criticism.
I concede that Mr. Mohamed might have written stuff, some profound, some ridiculous, and the rest banal, one and a half millennium ago. Much like Sir Rushdie today, I guess, although I like the latter's writing style a lot better. To be fair and equal, however, I suggest that the British Crown consider honoring Mr. Mohamed too, by conferring a posthumous knighthood on him!