Satanic Verses author receives knighthood

LONDON—Author Salman Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for a decade after the leader of Iran’s revolution ordered his assassination, has been made knight, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday.

The author of The Satanic Verses, along with CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, a KGB double agent and perhaps the government’s toughest human rights critic, were on the list of honours marking the Queen’s official birthday.

“I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognized in this way,” Rushdie said in a statement.

Rushdie is one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century and is known for his unique mix of history with magical realism. His 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children in 1981. In 1993, the novel won the “Booker of Bookers,” a special award honouring the best novel in the 25-year history of the prize.

He went into hiding after Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author because The Satanic Verses allegedly insulted Islam.

The Iranian government declared in 1998 that it would not support but could not rescind the fatwa. Rushdie says he receives a “sort of Valentine’s card” from Iran each year on Feb. 14 letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to end his life.

Ian Botham, one of England’s most successful 20th century cricket players, was also made a knight. Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, and Shami Chakrabarti, a government lawyer-turned human rights campaigner, were named Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE. That honour was also given to Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis and comedian Barry Humphries, who created the character of Dame Edna Everage.

One of the most remarkable names on the list is former KGB agent Oleg Gordievsky, who like Rushdie lived for years under the threat of assassination.

British intelligence recruited Gordievsky in the 1960s and he later became invaluable when Moscow assigned him to its London embassy to spy on Britain in 1982. But three years later, his cover was blown and he was arrested while in the Soviet Union. He was released due to a lack of evidence and he escaped by secretly boarding a train to Finland.

Gordievsky was appointed a Companion to the Order of St. Michael and St. George, or CMG, an honour for individuals who have rendered important services related to Commonwealth or foreign nations. The fictional spy James Bond receives the same appointment in Ian Fleming’s novels.

Other famous names on the list include singer Joe Cocker and actor Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace in the “Wallace and Gromit” films, who both are named OBEs, Officers of the Order of the British Empire. Soccer player Teddy Sheringham and Agent Provocateur fashion label founders Joseph Corre and Serena Rees are made MBEs, Members of the Order of the British Empire.

The Queen turned 81 on April 21, but her official birthday, celebrated with the annual Trooping the Colour parade, falls on the first, second, or third Saturday in June.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Toronto Star, Canada
June 15, 2007
D'Arcy Doran

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This post was last updated: Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 1:46 PM, Central European Time (CET)