Mag June 19th, 2007
Salman Rushdie, the famed author was knighted by her majesty the Queen Elizabeth on June 16, 2007. The knighthood was met with sharp criticism and opposition from Muslims in UK and around the world in countries like Iran and Pakistan because of their hate-hate relationship against Sir Salman Rushdie. Islamic extremists placed a bounty of £80,000 on his head as is expected of them. A group of Pakistani ministers also went as far as to justify the acts of suicide bombers saying giving knighthood to someone like Salman Rushdie is a cause for terrorism. His fault? He wrote a book The Satanic Verses 18 years ago which supposedly insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Salman Rushdie, the author of Midnight’s Children who was granted Knighthood
I know it is not very politically correct in a secular country to speak against a religion but Sir. Salman Rushdie did something he paid for manifold, by being hunted and being on run for years. He got the knighthood for his contributions to literature because of Midnight’s Children , Haroun and the Sea of Stories and such literary works. If he was knighted for The Satanic Verses it might be somehow justified for an opposition in the form of peaceful protests but terrorism? Suicide bombings? How does it justify to kill people who have nothing to do with it just because an author made defamatory comments against a religion and that in a book penned two decades ago? Is it worth that people get violently killed for the name of a prophet? I can’t understand this and I hope someone can explain me how could humans kill innocent people for thing as small as someone slandering a prophet.
A few years ago we had a bestseller book Da Vinci Code which was very offensive against Christians in general and Opus Dei Catholics in particular. It was followed with a movie on the same book which became a hit. We sure didn’t have the Pope or even a Cardinal passing a million pound bounty on Dan Brown and no one blew themselves up in a public place for it. It is because sane people living in secular nations know that it is a free world where people like me and you have choices. Choices to say what you want, choices to do what you want and choices to go where you want as long as you do not harm others. The people who are besmirched in the Da Vinci Code or Satanic Verses are long gone and their followers stay till today. But while the followers of one religion did not make a fuss about a book, the followers of another make a big fuss about it. Is it because one party is not very sure about the strength of their religion?
Why would people of a certain belief get so violent about offensive remarks that they are ready to kill for it? It is surprising when another group of people with another set of beliefs does not go berserk in the same situation. I think it has more to do with the strength of beliefs. Believing Christians are not worried that their religion will disappear overnight because of Da Vinci Code becoming a hit/bestseller. But maybe the Muslims who make such a fuss are not so sure when it comes to their own religion. Maybe they know their religion is possibly weak and a small strike like The Satanic Verses can destroy it. If we let religiously narrow minded people like this have their way, our freedom of expression and right to life will be in danger. This will turn into a war where every religion tries to have its way, we will have violences in the likes of the Crusades, the Holocausts and the Inquisitions.
We cannot eliminate religion altogether because of the strength of people’s beliefs and sense of emotional connection people have with the religions. But we can at least ensure that practising religion is done not at the cost of someone’s right to live and other fundamental human rights like freedom of expression and speech.
(Special thanks to Aby for formatting, editing and designing the post and also for giving a catchy title)