"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified"
This weekend, Queen Elizabeth II awarded a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie. Rushdie is best known for his controversial 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. British Islamists publicly burned the book, while Iran's theocratic ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a February 1989 fatwa calling for the murder of Rushdie and everyone involved in its publication. The Rushdie affair marked a major escalation in radical Islamism's war on intellectual freedom.
Thus, the reaction of Islamists to the news of Rushdie's knighthood was sadly predictable. The Times of London provides an overview:
Hardliners in Iran revived calls for his murder yesterday. Mehdi Kuchakzadeh, a Tehran MP, declared: “Rushdie died the moment the late Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] issued the fatwa.”
The Organisation to Commemorate Martyrs of the Muslim World, a fringe hardline group, offered a reward of $150,000 (£75,000) to any successful assassin.
Forouz Rajaefar, the group’s secretary general, said: “The British and the supporters of the anti-Islam Salman Rushdie could rest assured that the writer’s nightmare will not end until the moment of his death and we will bestow kisses on the hands of whomsoever is able to execute this apostate.”
The response of the Iranian regime itself was, needless to say, less than enthusiastic. Agence France Presse has the details:
"Knighting one of the most hated figures in the Islamic world is a clear sign of Islamophobia among high-ranking British officials," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.
"Honoring a hated apostate will definitely put the British statesmen against the Islamic community and hurts their feelings once again," he said of the novelist, who was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II Saturday.
"Insulting Islamic religious sanctities is not accidental, but organized, and is taking place with the support and direction of some Western countries.
Personally, my feelings are hurt when despotic regimes claim the right to murder people for exercising their right of free expression. Not to mention anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and crushing the right of students and faculty to intellectual freedom. However, I doubt Mr. Hosseini or his superiors really care about my feelings.
An even more outrageous response came from Pakistan's Religious Affairs Minister, Ejaz-ul-Haq. According to the BBC:
Mr ul-Haq was speaking during a session of Pakistan's National Assembly in which it unanimously condemned Britain's award of a knighthood to the author Salman Rushdie and demanded it be withdrawn.
His comments in the Urdu language caused uproar.
"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammad, his act is justified," he said, according to the translation by the Reuters news agency.
"If Britain doesn't withdraw the award, all Muslim countries should break off diplomatic relations."
Ul-Haq later claimed that he was not endorsing suicide bombing, just warning of potential consequences stemming from this "insult". However, according to the BBC article cited above, he "is a well known Islamic hardliner". I hope the reader will forgive me if I take Ul-Haq's attempted clarification with a major grain of salt.
The AP reports that, elsewhere in Pakistan, "hard-line Muslim students burned effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Rushdie. About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, "Kill him! Kill him!""
In short, the Islamists' response to Rushdie's knighthood amply displayed their deep-seated hatred of intellectual freedom.
Queen Elizabeth's decision to honor Rushdie serves as an eloquent defense of free expression in the face of ideologically-sanctioned censorship and murder. I congratulate Sir Salman on his award.