Salman Rushdie Archive

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Salman Rushdie is not the problem. Muslims are.

Growing up in Vancouver, I attended an Islamic school every Saturday. There, I learned that Jews cannot be trusted because they worship “moolah, not Allah,” meaning money, not God. According to my teacher, every last Jew is consumed with business.

But looking around my neighbourhood, I noticed that most of the new business signs featured Asian languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Punjabi and plenty of Urdu. Not Hebrew. Urdu, which is spoken throughout Pakistan.

That reality check made me ask: What if my religious school is not educating me? What if it is indoctrinating me?

I am reminded of this question thanks to the news that Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses and ten other works of fiction, will be knighted by the Queen of England. On Monday, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister said that in light of how Rushdie has blasphemed Islam with provocative literature, it is understandable why angry Muslims would commit suicide bombings over his knighthood.

Members of Parliament, as well as the Pakistani government, amplified the condemnation of Britain, feeding cries of offense to Muslim sensibilities from Europe to Asia.

As a Muslim, you better believe I am offended – by these absurd reactions.

I am offended that it is not the first time honours from the West have met with vitriol and violence. In 1979, Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam became the first Muslim to win the Nobel Prize in science. He began his acceptance speech with a verse from the Quran.

What Muslims Should Be Outraged Over:

Our view: Muslims should stop getting their knickers in a twist every time they feel slighted. While Islam means submission, the world will never submit to Islam. Every time Muslims resort to riots, threats, acts of terrorism, and other idiotic behavior they show Islam to be a religion of hatred.

Salam’s country ought to have celebrated him. Instead, rioters tried to prevent him from re-entering the country. Parliament even declared him a “non-Muslim” because he belonged to a religious minority. His name continues to be controversial, invoked by state authorities in hushed tones.

I am offended that every year, there are more women killed in Pakistan for allegedly violating their family’s honour than there are detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Muslims have rightly denounced the mistreatment of Guantanamo prisoners. But where is our outrage over the murder of many more Muslims at the hands of our own?

I am offended that in April, mullahs at an extreme mosque in Pakistan issued a fatwa against hugging. The country’s female tourism minister had embraced – or, depending on the account you follow, accepted a congratulatory pat from – her skydiving instructor after she successfully jumped in a French fundraiser for the victims of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. Clerics announced her act of touching another man to be “a great sin.” They demanded she be fired.

I am offended by their fatwa proclaiming that women should stay at home and remain covered at all times. I am offended that they have bullied music store owners and video vendors into closing shop. I am offended that the government tiptoes around their craziness because these clerics threaten suicide attacks if confronted.

I am offended that on Sunday, at least 35 Muslims in Kabul were blown to bits by other Muslims and on Tuesday, 87 more in Baghdad by Islamic “insurgents”, with no official statement from Pakistan to deplore these assaults on fellow believers. I am offended that amid the internecine carnage, a professed atheist named Salman Rushdie tops the to-do list.

Above all, I am offended that so many other Muslims are not offended enough to demonstrate widely against God’s self-appointed ambassadors. We complain to the world that Islam is being exploited by fundamentalists, yet when reckoning with the opportunity to resist their clamour en masse, we fall curiously silent. In a battle between flaming fundamentalists and mute moderates, who do you think is going to win?

I am not saying that standing up to intimidation is easy. This past spring, the Muslim world made it that much more difficult. A 56-member council of Islamic countries pushed the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution against the “defamation of religion”. Pakistan led the charge. Focused on Islam rather than on faith in general, the resolution allows repressive regimes to squelch freedom of conscience further – and to do so in the guise of international law.

On occasion, though, the people of Pakistan show that they do not have to be muzzled by clerics and politicians. Last year, civil society groups vocally challenged a set of anti-female laws, three decades old and supposedly based on the Quran. Their religiously respectful approach prompted even mullahs to hint that these laws are man-made, not God-given.

This month, too, Pakistanis forced their government to lift restrictions on the press. No wonder my own book, translated into Urdu and posted on my website, is being downloaded in droves. Religious authorities will not let it be sold in the markets. But they cannot stop Pakistanis – or other Muslims – from satiating a genuine hunger for ideas.

In that spirit, it is high time to “ban” hypocrisy under the banner of Islam. Salman Rushdie is not the problem. Muslims are.

After all, the very first bounty on Rushdie’s head was worth £1 million. It increased to £1.25 million; then higher. The chief benefactor, Iran’s government, claimed to have profitably invested the principal. Hence the rising value of the reward. Looks like Jews are not the only people handy at business.

A Senior Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy, Irshad Manji is creator of the new documentary Faith Without Fear and author of The Trouble with Islam Today: A Wake-Up Call for Honesty and Change

£80,000 price on Rushdie’s head as anger grows over knighthood

The international row over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood escalated after Islamic extremists placed a £80,000 bounty on the writer’s head.

The British Government expressed its “deep concern” over reported comments by one of Pakistan’s ministers which suggested Rushdie’s knighthood could justify suicide attacks.

The announcement comes amid continuing protests in Pakistan over the awarding of the honour to the controversial author.

Earlier in the day Pakistan’s government summoned Britain’s high commissioner in Islamabad for talks on the escalating row.

Salman Rushdie with his wife Padma. Rushdie was awarded an OBE this weekend, but Pakistan has demanded it be withdrawn

What Muslims Should Be Outraged Over:

Throughout its history, Islam has been a religion of hatred. Spread by the sword, Islam means ‘submission’ and submission is what Muslims demand — submission to a religion whose followers maim, kill, commit acts of terrorism, and threathen harm whenever they feel slighted. When will we see Muslims take to the streets to protest the despicable acts of Muslim terrorists?

Our view: Europeans – and indeed free people everywhere – should stand up against the Islamic oppression. Europe is not Islamic, and Europe should not sacrifice its culture to a people who – in the name of Islam – use any and every opportunity to stage violent protests, issue death threaths, destroy property, murder, and commit other acts of terrorism.

Iranian conservatives attacked the Queen over Salman Rushdie’s knighthood, with a top MP saying the British monarch lived in a dreamworld and a newspaper labelling her an “old crone”.

“Salman Rushdie has turned into a hated corpse which cannot be resurrected by any action,” Mohammad Reza Bahonar, first deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament, said in an address to the house.

“The action by the British queen in knighting Salman Rushdie, the apostate, is an unwise one,” he said, to loud cheers from MPs.

“The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important.”

Hardline daily Jomhuri Eslami also launched a scathing attack on the queen, describing the monarch as an “old crone” whose action was a “grimace to the Islamic world”.

“The question is what the old British crone sought by knighting Rushdie, to help him? Well, her act only shortens Rushdie’s pathetic life,” it added.

The daily also linked the award of the knighthood – which marked the queen’s 81st birthday – to a controversial party at the British embassy on Thursday celebrating the same occasion.

Dozens of Islamist students protested against the party, hurling stones, eggs and paint filled bags outside the doors of the compound in southern Tehranand vented anger against Iranians who attended the event.

Security around the writer is being reviewed by Scotland Yard as an Iranian group placed an £80,000 bounty on his head.

The same group accused the Queen of mocking Muslims with the honour.

In London, Lord Ahmed, Britain’s first Muslim peer, said he had been appalled by the award to a man he accused of having ‘blood on his hands’.

In Pakistan, where effigies of the Queen and 59-year-old Rushdie were burned, a minister appeared to justify suicide bombings as a response to the knighthood.

“This is an occasion for the world’s 1.5billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision,” said Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister.

“The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism,” he told his country’s parliament.

“If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so, unless the British government apologises and withdraws the ‘sir’ title.”

The parliament in Islamabad – supposedly a key ally in the war on terror – then backed a government-sponsored motion demanding an apology and the withdrawal of the honour from the The Satanic Verses author.

This isn’t the first time that Salman Rushdie has his the headlines this year.

There has been much speculation that his three year marriage to Padma Lakshmi is in trouble.

Over the course of their relationship Rushdie and his 36-year-old wife have repeatedly denied claims that he is with for her looks while she is attracted to his wealth and fame.

Padma is a model and actress who has more recently been forging her own career as the host of reality show, Top Chef.

Four years ago the couple went to the trouble of releasing a statement denying Lakshmi found Rushdie “boring” or that he thought she wasn’t “intellectually stimulating enough”.

However rumours of an impending split have persisted.

As a backlash begins in the Muslim world against Rushdie’s knighthood, same way as last year’s furore over 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper.

There were violent protests throughout Europe and the Middle East, Danish citizens were warned not to travel to Arab countries and more than a dozen countries removed Danish goods from their shops.

Labour’s Lord Ahmed expressed surprise at the decision to give a knighthood to Rushdie, who was placed under a fatwa, or death sentence, by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini 18 years ago after the publication of the allegedly blasphemous The Satanic Verses.

“I was appalled to hear Salman Rushdie had been given a knighthood,” Lord Ahmed said.

“Two weeks ago the Prime Minister was calling for building relations between the Muslim world and Britain, then suddenly this knighthood is given to a man who has not only been abusive to Muslims, but also to Christians – because he used abusive language towards Jesus Christ.”

He said whoever had made the decision had made Gordon Brown’s job very difficult as he takes over as Prime Minister.

“The confidence that was being built within Britain with inter-faith work and community cohesion work has once again been damaged because of this provocative decision.

“This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world.

“Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far.”

In the Iranian capital Tehran, officials of a group called The Organisation to Commemorate the Martyrs of the Muslim World said a £80,000 reward should be paid to anyone ‘who was able to execute the apostate Salman Rushdie’.

Forouz Rajaefar, the general secretary, said that the decision to honour Rushdie with a knight-hood demonstrated the animosity of Britain towards Islam.

He added: “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.”

Iranian MP Mehdi Kuchakzadeh declared: “Rushdie died the moment the late Imam (Khomeini) issued the fatwa.

“It would be a hollow dream for the Queen of England to think that with such a move she could

revive one of her mercenaries to oppose Islam. Granting a knighthood to Salman Rushdie will only lead to further hatred towards Britain.”

In the eastern Pakistan city of Multan, hard-line students burned effigies of the Queen and Rushdie.

About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, ‘Kill him! Kill him!’

Asim Dahr, a student leader demanded Rushdie face Islamic justice. “This Queen has made a mockery of Muslims by giving him a title of sir,” he told the demonstrators.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman Tasnim Aslam said Rushdie’s knighthood would hamper inter-faith understanding and that Islamabad would protest to London.

“We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him. Salman Rushdie has tried to insult and malign Muslims.”

As his apparent justification of suicide bombers was reported, ul-Haq took a step back and said he was trying to stress what was at the root of terrorism.

The reignited bitterness has caused concern at Scotland Yard. The taxpayer has already spent £10million protecting Rushdie 24-hours a day.

He is afforded the same level of protection as Lady Thatcher or some of the royals.

Robert Brinkley, British high commissioner to Pakistan, defended the honour for Rushdie for his contributions to literature.

“It is simply untrue to suggest that this in any way is an insult to Islam or the Prophet Mohammed, and we have enormous respect for Islam as a religion and for its intellectual and cultural achievements,” Mr Brinkley said.

Asked if he was concerned it could provoke unrest in Pakistan, he replied: “We will just have to see where it goes from here. There’s certainly no reason for that.”