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