United Kingdom

Fury: Rushdie's Knighthood

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Salman Rushdie, author of the best-selling and largely unread book of blasphemy The Satanic Verses, joins the esteemed ranks of Elton John, Oswald Mosley and Cliff Richards as a Knight of the British Empire. The BBC World Service asked Lord Ahmed (audio link), Britain's first Muslim peer, if Rushdie is worthy of such an honor:

"I'm appalled because there are some wonderful British writers like J.K. Rowling…who makes a huge contribution in British society, in terms of helping children. Robert Frisk (sic), who has been excellent author (sic) writing about the lies and deception in Afghanistan and Iraq. And many, many more writers who deserve this knighthood much more than a man who was born in India, caused problems in the United Kingdom and now lives in the United States. The only contribution he has made [is] cost our British taxpayer huge amounts of money, but divided the communities and also created hatred against the Muslims. Therefore he does not deserve the knighthood he has been given."

When asked about the position of free speech in a democratic society, Ahmed slithers into that meaningless, post-Jyllands-Posten dodge: "Let me say that I believe in freedom of speech, but it has to be balanced with responsibility." Ahmed also seems unclear on just why Rushdie has "cost the British taxpayer huge amounts of money," though he might want to direct that question to some of his more extreme coreligionists.

But anti-Rushdie sentiment isn't confined to the religious fringe. In the little Englander Daily Mail, Ruth Dudley Edwards comes out against knighting the "self-pitying, pretentious and ungrateful" author:

…he banged on relentlessly in public about his sufferings as a post-colonial expatriate. It seemed to me that he didn't like India, his birthplace, and he certainly didn't like the United Kingdom, his host country. But he was, of course, a wow with the masochistic liberal intelligentsia who loved his savaging of British values as insufficiently cosmopolitan.

In 2005, Rushdie discussed "free speech, fundamentalism, America's place in the world, and his new essay collection" with reason contributor Shikha Dalmia

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  1. “Let me say that I believe in freedom of speech, but it has to be balanced with responsibility.”

    So, basically, if you say something, and a bunch of 3rd world primitivists decide to throw a riot as a result, it’s basically your fault.

  2. Y’know. Basically speaking.

  3. “I’m appalled because there are some wonderful British writers like J.K. Rowling…who makes a huge contribution in British society, in terms of helping children.

    Ha ha

    For teh children.

    Bitch, plz.

  4. I waiting for Lord Jubjub to chime in.

  5. THE NEXT PERSON WHO ACCUSES ME OF BEING A VIOLENT EXTREMIST WILL HAVE HIS HEAD CUT OFF AND SHOVED UP HIS ASS! DIE, DIE, ALL OF YOU!

  6. I don’t care is Rushdie is a flaming asshole in person, I think he deserves this ten times more than most recipients. Because of something he wrote, people want him dead. That’s just sick, and the West needs to rub our contempt of such primitive viewpoints in their faces.

    I don’t think God and/or Allah need us to force everyone to behave the exact same way. God and/or Allah could do that himself, if he wanted, right? Choose a virtuous life as you see it, but don’t try to force your virtue on others. You can hate the unvirtuous, try as hard as you can to persuade them to change, but using or threatening violence is unconscionable.

  7. Britain’s first Muslim peer, if Rushdie is worthy of such an honor:

    He’s not a Muslim he’s an athiest. He is no more a Muslim than I’m Roman Catholic.

  8. I worked at one of the few bookstores “brave” enough to sell Rushdie’s book at the beginning of the controversy. We got death threats, but we also had waiting lists for the book several pages long. We would order an extra case of the books for general sales, and they would be gone in five minutes. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that the mainstream chain booksellers decided to get in on the act as well.

    I don’t know if someone should be given an knighthood for going into hiding, but I think all those who called for his death should be given anti-knighthoods. Including Cat “Peace Train” Stevens.

  9. Ahmed also seems unclear on just why Rushdie has “cost the British taxpayer huge amounts of money,”

    Vague recollection, which may be inaccurate: I seem to recall a few years ago that Prince Charles made some remark about how the security Rushdie needed was a huge expense to the British taxpayer, and then Rushdie remarked as to how maybe members of the royal family weren’t the best people to criticize such things.

  10. The only thing I have against it, is that it lends additional evidence to the case that the Order of the British Empire has become so infatuated with celebrity that it cheapens the entire concept of knighthood and renders it pointless.

    Yes, a rich and/or famous person can do great good with his/her wealth. But how many hundreds of thousands of people labor, in poverty and anonymity, for the greater good? Just because it’s the right thing to do?

    Those are the people that organizations such as OBE need to seek out and “ennoble”. Because those are the people who have the ability to inspire others to make a difference.

    I personally would *love* to see an order of knighthood established, to lift up and inspire people to do good without respect to the corruptions of fame, money, politics or dogma.

  11. Including Cat “Peace Train” Stevens.

    I call a fatwa on that prototypical emo pacifist folk songwriter – the one whose music launched a million crappy, self-conscious Wes Anderson movies.

  12. It’s getting so that every time I hear the word “responsibility” used in conjunction with a discussion of rights, I reach for a revolver.

    Plus, any discussion of Rushdie should include a photo of his wife, Padma Lakshmi. Yow.

  13. Them saying that some guy they don’t like being called sir is the worst thing hey can imagine is like Romney saying the same about polygamy.

    REALLY? NOTHING is worse than that?

  14. his wife, Padma Lakshmi. Yow.

    Indeed, I’d give him a medal just for that.

  15. No offense, but Rushdie’s writing is pretentious and, more to the point, boring. That doesn’t mean he deserves to die, it just means he’s over-promoted.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves, folks, if you saw the latest Rushdie tome sitting next to the latest Stephen King novel, which would you go for?

  16. Are you kidding? Stephen King is barely literate. Give me the Rushdie, thanks.

  17. Now, smacky.

  18. “Let’s be honest with ourselves, folks, if you saw the latest Rushdie tome sitting next to the latest Stephen King novel, which would you go for?”

    I’d rather have Dean Koontz

  19. Stratborn:

    Looked her up. Thank you very much.

  20. Make that Strayborn. Damn, I wish I could type.

  21. Isn’t his wife a host on the reality cooking show on the Food Network? She’s stiffer than Rushdie’s dick must be after 2 viagra and her playing the skin flute on him while it takes effect.

    She must really dig old dudes who are famous for hiding from Muslim death threats for the last 20 years.

    /snark off, she’s hot

  22. Fanatics with guns beat liberals with ideas.

  23. Seriously, Steven King is always an easy read, sort of entertaining. But saying he’s a better writer than Rushdie? That’s crazy. Rushdie’s got an odd writing style that takes some getting used to but he’s really quite brilliant. Let’s just say Steven King will never have a book on any top 100 list.

  24. I didn’t mean that. I just meant that calling King nearly illiterate is unfair. He’s a decent writer, and I’ve enjoyed several of his books (yes, that means there are a number that I didn’t like). I actually like his shorts and novellas better than his novels.

  25. Fanatics with guns beat liberals with ideas.

    And (classical) liberals with ideas and guns beat fanatics with guns.

  26. Pro Lib,

    Alright, alright…maybe it was unfair of me to say “barely literate”.

    I am just forever going to hold a grudge against him for dissing Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining because it was not to his liking. In my opinion, he therefore must be at least somewhat mentally deficient. Did you see the made for tv remake as done by King himself?

    Nobody remakes The Shining after Stanley Kubrick and walks away without egg on his face. Nobody. That’s like challeging Urkobold at trollery.

  27. if you saw the latest Rushdie tome sitting next to the latest Stephen King novel,
    which would you go for?

    Isn’t that like asking whether you’d rather eat shit or feces?

  28. Soooo — did Rushdie get the knighthood for his awful writing (yes, I read The Satanic Verses for a book club group) or for the death threats? Because if it’s the latter, isn’t it really being awarded to the fanatics who put out the fatwa in absentia?

    Kidding.

  29. I read Satanic Verses and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I recall, I really couldn’t see the blasphmy in it, but it’s been a long time since I read it. If you like the magical realism-type school of lit – and I do – you’d probably enjoy it. A huge sprawling thing that took a lot of time but was worth it. Kind of reminded me of John Barth, not necessarily in the style but maybe atmospherically – they are both writers in whose books I get kind of “lost” while reading – really absorped and unaware of what’s going on around me, you know? As opposed to King or Koontz, both of whom I like, but while reading them I will still think “Almost time to start dinner” or “who’s doing the hitting and who’s doing the screaming this time”?

    Anyway. Want to read Midnight’s Children, haven’t gotten around to it.

  30. Frankly, I think magical realism is a rather misguided genre. If I wanted magic, I’d read the Lord of the Rings. You know you have a problem when the name of the genre is an oxymoron. For me, this is also an issue with Isabel Allende.

  31. Dude,

    Steven King’s “The Stand” was awesome. Then ending was kind of gay.

    But it is one of my all time top books.

  32. “If I wanted magic, I’d read the Lord of the Rings.”

    diff’rent things, bruh.

    rushdie is a hell of a writer, though shalimar the clown was not nearly up to his earlier stuff.

    (obligatory plugs for borges, marquez)

  33. Are you kidding? Stephen King is barely literate. Give me the Rushdie, thanks.
    King doesn’t purport to write “serious literature,” while Rushdie does, whether successfully or not, so the question isn’t whether, say, Hearts In Atlantis is great serious fiction but whether it is excellent popular fiction. As to the latter, yeah, it is. Hamburgers aren’t prime rib but there are still vastly better and worse hamburgers out there. King serves up a damned good burger.

    King is a very competent craftsman as a writer of popular fiction and, for that matter, his popular fiction is far more nuanced (sometimes, not always) than I thought before I got around to reading some of his middle to later stuff. Also, his On Writing is really quite good both as sound advice on craft and as a memoir of his alcoholism and accident.

  34. Like most things, this comes down to taste. I enjoy Rushdie’s books tremendously, and I read whatever he puts out, but I never recommend him unreservedly to my friends. He tends to whip up a complicated mess of a plot and then he doesn’t seem to know what to do with, so while the first two thirds of the books are great, the last third may disappoint. Personally I am willing to indulge him in that because he charms me with his ideas and the way he plays with language.
    Satanic Verses is actually not one of his best works. If you want to read one Rushdie book, I recommend Midnight’s Children–I think that’s his masterpiece.

  35. D.A. Ridgely, you beat me to recommending On Writing.

    King serves up a damned good burger.

    Heh. Funny you mention meat, because he once famously said, “I’m a salami writer. I try to write good salami, but salami is salami.”

  36. I thought we guys were against empire, so why do we care who gets its order?

  37. Every day my dog farts allah.

  38. That’s just sick, and the West needs to rub our contempt of such primitive viewpoints in their faces.

    except when the west jails people for things they wrote ala Irving.

  39. anon,

    True. Let’s just say the United States, then.

    smacky,

    I agree with that. King may not have liked the liberties that Kubrick took with his book–pride of authorship and all that–but The Shining was a heck of a movie. Definitely the best film rendering of a King novel, with The Shawshank Redemption coming second.

    Anyway, I pretty much agree with everything that DAR said above. King is good at what he purports to do, and I like his honesty about his work. On Writing is a good read–I second that.

    I attempted and failed to finish The Satanic Verses. I may need to try again.

  40. Lord Ahmed needs a punch in the dick. Comparing JK Rowling to Salmon Rushdie is like comparing Rushdie to Stephen King. Yeah, I like The Stand, but Midnight’s Children captured a major point in the British Empire’s history, and he did it in a powerful way.

  41. Read Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses – all set-up with no payoff. Actually enjoyed Jaguar’s smile more.

    stubby – one of the chapters, set in mohammed’s time, has another character complaining how anytime mohammed needs a word from god, he runs off & comes back with god’s word justifying whatever mohammed was going to do in the first place. “at least he could pretend not to be making it all up” is my best recollection of the quote from the character – can see how muslim’s would view that as blasphemous.

    The reaction actually seems muted compared to the Danish Cartoons reactions – hopefully it will stay that way.

  42. This is a classic Muzzie line:

    also created hatred against the Muslims

    So their violent reaction to something written is the fault of Rushdie and the reaction of the public to that violence is also the fault of Rushdie?

  43. “I’d rather have Dean Koontz”

    I’m trying not to barf on the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Koontz ghost writes episodes of 7th Heaven. Not a note coming from the mouth of one of his phony characters rings true and his ideas on bioethics are so childish and simplistic they might make President Bush blush

    I’ll take Tobias Wolfe or Andrew X. Pham over the Koontz factory any day.

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