Rushdie’s Knighthood Prompts New Threats

July 17, 2007 04:04 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Muslim anger and al-Qaida threats follow the British government’s decision to knight novelist Salman Rushdie, who was condemned to death by Iran’s supreme leader in 1989.

30-Second Summary

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke out on June 11 to defend the bestowment of a knighthood on Salman Rushdie. Brown was responding to al-Qaida’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who threatened Britain with terrorist attacks in retribution for Britain’s honoring the much maligned author.

At the root of these exchanges is Rushdie’s "The Satanic Verses" (1989), a novel a number of Islamic religious leaders condemned as blasphemous.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called on Muslims around the world to kill the author and publishers of "The Satanic Verses." That edict, or fatwa, was issued on February 14, 1989.

The Iranian government tempered its stance on Rushdie 10 years later, and the author came out of hiding. However, the fatwa has never officially been lifted.

The British government’s June decision to knight Rushdie has reignited Islamic anger regarding "The Satanic Verses."

Relations between the West and Islamic states have clearly changed since 1989. Back then, many Western intellectuals accused Rushdie of rash insensitivity. Far fewer take that line today.

Headline Links: Rushdie's critics and supporters, then and now

Reactions: The international response to news of Rushdie's knighthood

Key Players: Salman Rushdie and Ayatollah Khomeini

Opinion: Should Rushdie be knighted?

The Knighthood, Pro-Rushdie
The Knighthood, Contra-Rushdie

Opinion: The fatwa

Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens

Background: Rushdie, Le Carré, Hitchens

Rushdie-Le Carré-Hitchens Correspondence

An angry correspondence involving this three writers began when thriller writer John Le Carré complained publicly after being accused of anti-Semitism. Rushdie responded in a letter to a London newspaper asking whether Le Carré, who was highly critical of Rushdie at the time of the fatwa against him was issued, now understood what was like to be the victim of racial slurs.

History: The Fatwa

Reference Material: "The Satanic Verses" and Knighthood

The Knighthood

Rushdie is to be made a bachelor knight, which though the lowest rank of knighthood still entitles the holder to be addressed as “sir." His name was on the Birthday Honours List, which honors British citizens who have demonstrated outstanding service to their country. The queen’s role in this process is mostly ceremonial, and it is the prime minister’s office that determines who is to appear on it.

Related Links: Rushdie's divorce


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