This past week, the Queens List was announced by Tony Blair’s Prime Ministerial Office; and Salman Rushdie (the Author of Satanic Verses) was handed a Knighthood (presumably for Service to his adopted country [Britain]…he is of Indian Origin).
Salman Rushdie, was of course, the Author of a book titled Satanic verses. According to the book: “Muhammad (Mahound in the book) added verses (sura) to the Qur'an accepting three goddesses that used to be worshipped in Mecca as divine beings. According to the legend, Muhammad later revoked the verses, saying the devil tempted him to utter these lines to appease the Meccans (hence the Satanic verses). However, the narrator reveals to the reader that these disputed verses were actually from the mouth of the Archangel Gibreel.”
The book became very controversial and was banned in many Muslim countries. The leader of Iran’s Islamic Republic (at the time) Ayatollah Khomeini (who is dead now), proclaimed a death threat against Salman Rushdie. Salman Rushdie has written many other books although none of the most recent books have sold as well as his earlier book (in the ‘80s). He has also received many literary awards, although no major awards have been bestowed to him in the recent past (except this knighthood).
A Knighthood was also bestowed early in the 20th century to the Founder of the Baha'i Faith Baha'u'llah’s son (an Iranian by birth) Abdu'l-Baha (apparently for his humanitarian work feeding the people of Haifa …then part of Britain’s Palestinian territories). And ever since that day, the followers of the Baha’i faith in Iran (a religious minority) have been persecuted as British agents! In fact, after the revolution in 1979, religious thugs started rounding up Baha’is and in a similar manner to the Nazi’s imprisoned them, stole their houses and businesses….just simply persecuted them.
The British government, of all governments, should know that these types of awards (knighthoods) have real consequence and implications. The simple point I am making is, that Rushdie is actually being rewarded for causing controversy in the Muslim world. It’s a simple stab at Muslims.
It’s one thing to protect free speech and protect Rushdie from death threats. That is absolutely correct. Any sort of religious intimidation and censorship are absolutely wrong and unwarranted. It’s totally another thing to reward someone for causing controversy in the Muslim world by deriding a religious text that Muslims believe is sacred. If the shoe was on the other foot (i.e. someone caused controversy about the bible), I do not think they would be awarded a Knighthood. It’s simple hypocrisy. Democratic and secular Governments and all self-respecting leaders have a responsibility to promote tolerance and respect for other faiths and beliefs.
But also recently, there have been events upon events, story after story of outright derision against Muslims (and Iranians). Consider media anger and abhorrent statements about a new Muslim representative in Congress: CNN’s Beck comes right out and says “I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." i.e. if you’re a Muslim, you must be the enemy.
Or consider the Rev. Jerry Falwell (recently deceased), preacher, leading member of the Southern Baptist Convention, and spokesperson for America's Moral Majority proclaiming: "I think Muhammad was a terrorist . . . " To call the holy man of a billion Muslims a "terrorist" on national television was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a swift move. While he apologized quietly, there was no real consequence to his statement, and as we all know it simply reflects a broader view among many in the West. There are roughly 20 million Baptists in the United States. Baptists are actually a branch of the Christian Protestant faith. The Church of England is a Protestant Church also, with the Queen as its titular head.
Yet another example, of Western derision is the constant reporting of deaths in the ‘War on Terrorism’: It is always how many Americans have died …but rarely (if ever) how many Iraqis have died. It’s as if Iraqi deaths do not count. As one Arab leader declared: “In Western minds our lives do not count… one American death is equal to one thousand Iraqi’s deaths”. And it is not just now during the war, it has been a constant feature of western reporting …whether it is the relative number of deaths in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (one Jewish death = 100 Palestinian deaths) or the Iran/Iraq war where literally a million people died with almost no media coverage and while there was regular western arm sales to both sides to continue the war (including ‘weapons of mass destruction’…i.e. intermediaries for Chemical Weapons).
Perhaps Muslims should be grateful. The media does not even cover deaths in Africa. Over a million people died in Rwanda before there was even one line in a newspaper or any coverage on the evening news. As Africans rightly point out, in the West …one Americans death is = 1 Million Africans deaths. In America, the evening news is basically is all about America and then if we're lucky we'll get one line about Israel and/or Iraq. Apparently nothing else matters to Americans.
These are just a few examples, but in my day to day dialogues, I have come across story after story of ordinary Muslims losing promotions, being sidelines by their local communities, being derided or just simply looked down on. Western colleagues or communities. I chuckle every time I meet an Iranian and I look at their business card … and I see a name like “Mo” (its actually Mohamad) or “Ray” (and its actually Reza) or its “Fred” (and its actually Fereidoon) or its … They are all scared, hiding their identities to simply survive in the United States.
The irony of all this, is that it was the West (The United States along with its stalwart ally … Britain) that actually placed these Islamic fanatics in power. President Jimmy Carter, a devout Southern Baptist, actually helped topple the Shah of Iran and put religious fanatics in power in Iran (and even helped start up the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan …to fight Russian communists).
As one friend confided to me: If I stay here in America my throat will eventually be cut off and if I go to Iran my throat will be cut off. Americans hate us. And the fanatics in Iran hate us. They hate us and we have nowhere to go.
Finally, I think any self respecting; democratically elected government in the Muslim world should cut off relations with the United States and its European Allies. Acts of blatant hatred …like Rushdie’s Knighthood should not be tolerated. Iran should cut off relations with Britain immediately.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Islam is actually the fastest growing religion in Europe and the second fastest in the United States. Those who promote hatred and polarization will one day pay the price from within.
And the stench of hypocrisy is over whelming. Christians after all fundamentally believe in the same tenets as Muslims i.e. spreading the Love of God, Loving thy Neighbor and spreading good will.