Monday, 18 June 2007

By The Company That They Keep

Salman Rushdie is not a sympathetic character. His books are largely unreadable, he is a shameless self-publicist, and he ended up as pretty much the only person in the world keeping up the idea that the fatwa against him was still a genuine threat, regularly doing so live on BBC Two late at night, not to mention about the bars and restaurants favoured by the London literati. Who'd have thought to look for him there, eh?

But no one should be remotely surprised at the Pakistani reaction to his knighthood. Pakistan is a key Islamic ally of neoconservatism. As is Saudi Arabia, as are the Chechens, as is the vile Kosovo "Liberation" Army, as is the soon-to-be-restored Caliphate of Turkey, as was the repulsive Alija Izetbegovic, and as were the founders of the Taliban. So what else did anyone expect?

It is no coincidence that Iqbal Sacranie, who used to march under banners reading "Rushdie Must Die", became an Establishment figure over exactly the same years that Marxist neo-Labour stalwarts (John Reid, Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn, Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman, David Aaronovitch, Christopher Hitchens, John Lloyd, Martin Jacques...) did so, though, like them, without the slightest modification in his views on anything that really mattered.

And since we now have Sir Iqbal, then why not Sir Salman? Indeed, since we now have Sir Iqbal, who else might as well also be knighted, and why?


  1. David,

    You write that Rushdie... ended up as pretty much the only person in the world keeping up the idea that the fatwa against him was still a genuine threat ...

    And the basis of this view is? Perhaps it is the kindly statements of the Iranians? Or, is it the fact that more than a score of people have so far died in connection with the decree, including one of the translators? Perhaps, the fact that it is not a fatwa but, instead, the far more serious decree known as a hukm (i.e. a sentence that cannot be reversed) that justifies your calm? Perhaps it is the fact that with some other such decrees - and there have been quite a few -, the authors have been killed? Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps, you are mistaken to be so calm.

    In fact, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a statement on February 12, 2005, in which it declared, "The day will come when they will punish the apostate Rushdie for his scandalous acts and insults against the Koran and the Prophet." [Source: "Iran Hardliners Say Rushdie Still Faces Execution," Agence France Presse, February 13, 2005.]

    Maybe they are serious, maybe not. Your calm about someone else's life is, to me, amazingly arrogant. It reminds me of your disdain for the religious views of others.

  2. Everyone in Britain knew this in the end. It was actually the right-wing press - no friends of Iran - that made the most fuss about how he was little, if anything, more than a freeloader, regularly out on the town in exactly the spots where one would expect a London literato to be, and on exactly the nights that one would. He became so unpopular that he moved to New York, where he is now a tax exile.

  3. David,

    But David, my point is not about Rushdie the man, about whom I have no brief.

    My comment was about your view that there is no serious threat to him. That view is contradicted by the evidence, including statements by the Iranians, the killing of his translator and others involved in his work and the fact that other writers have, in fact, been killed after fatwas. That is the issue.

    That Rushdie may hang out in places of interest to literatis is irrelevant. He has guards who see to his security. Do you know whether he has ever had to leave a place, as has, for example, occurred repeatedly to Ms. Hirsi Ali?

    Here are some facts for you to digest:

    More than fifty people were killed around the world as a result of the ayatollah's fatwa and anti-Rushdie rioting. Rushdie's Japanese translator was killed, and two Norwegian bookstores were bombed. A suicide bomber attacked a British hotel, and Rushdie's Italian translator was stabbed.

    Source: "On Susan Sontag," by Paul Berman, Spring 2005, Dissent Magazine.

  4. That was a long time ago. Even Rushdie himself doesn't keep it up anymore, although he might start again now.

  5. David,

    2005 is long ago? Are you for real?

  6. Oh, you'll learn with Rushdie. He was merely laughed out of Britain. With any luck he'll be jeered and kicked out of America. And then where will he go?

    The measure of the man can be discerned by his comment that he had paid more in personal tax than the tens of millions of pounds that had been spent on "protecting" him while he behaved exactly as he would have done anyway.

    Not only was this wildly improbable in itself, but he really did think that it somehow made his public and repeated ingratitude any better!