Jun 19, 2007

On Salman Rushdie and Royal Stupidity

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Pakistani protesters burning an effigy of British author Salman Rushdie; photo courtesy of AP/ Shakil AdilLeft: Pakistani protesters burning an effigy of British author Salman Rushdie; photo courtesy of AP/ Shakil Adil

I have never been a fan of monarchies, believing them to be anachronistic perpetuators of inherited hierarchy, so I will be up front with my biases. Still, there is something especially thick-skulled - and perhaps arrogant - about the decision by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday to award Salman Rushdie the dignity of Knight Bachelor.

Admittedly, I have only read Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, so perhaps I am not in a position to assess the relative excellence of Sir Rushdie's claim to knighthood. I found his prose to be brilliant, but his tendency to float into lofty metaphorical realms had me yawning at times.

Britain's reputation in the Muslim world is already in a shambles after a short-leashed Tony Blair allowed himself to be led into the debacle known as the Iraq War by the pooch-walking President Bush, and this statement does not even consider the effects of several hundred years worth of British colonialism in the Islamic world. For the Queen and her advisors to even think about awarding knighthood to Salman Rushdie is astounding, but to have the fatuity to carry out this diplomatic blunder boggles the mind.

Again: I am not questioning the relative merits of Rushdie as a writer. I am more concerned here with the astonishing lack of awareness exhibited by the British monarchy in this latest public relations debacle.

This boneheaded move by an increasingly irrelevant British monarch does not excuse any acts of terrorism that might follow, especially those that involve innocent British citizens. Yet I sit here at my keyboard grasping for any explanation at how a sovereign could be so unable to foresee the consequences of this act.

Unless, of course, the answer to that question is that the British monarchs are a swaggering group of doddering fools.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

You said: "the British monarchs are a swaggering group of doddering fools" and I laughed out loud.

But I think that burning Rushdie in effigy is stupid. Christians don't protest every time Jesus was put down.

--JD

Historychic said...

I believe that it is actually the British government of Tony Blair that decides who is to be knighted and not the Queen. She is purely a figurehead who does what ever the Prime Minister wants. She basically rubber stamps knighthoods even. Generally,I don't speak in favor of the Brit monarch (inherent Irish nationalist bias coming through).

historymike said...

JD:

Plenty of Christians protest acts that they see as sacriligious, although admittedly we don't see many burnings-in-effigy committed by Christians.

Just books and records...

:-}

historymike said...

Ha!

I'm telling the LAOH on you, Historychic, for sticking up for the Queen.

True, the Queen does what she is told, but she is the one who lays the Holy Scepter on the beknighted's head, or whatever that farcical device is called.

Agreed that the PM and the rest of the British administration completely buy into the perpetuation of the monarchy.

Anonymous said...

So we are supposed to just sit back and let the Muslim extremists shut down free speech????

historymike said...

I am not interested in arguing freedom of speech or freedom of expression here. Certainly the British Crown can knight whomever they wish, Salman Rushdie can write whatever he wants, and protesters can complain to their hearts' content.

I am referring to the geopolitical imbecility of unnecessarily riling up people who are already predisposed to resent (or hate) you.

If I am walking down the street and face a group of thugs, am I in my rights to tell them that their body odor offends me?

Sure.

Will there likely be repercussions?

You bet. I would probably get my arse kicked.

I might be right, and I might be exercising my freedom of speech, but my well-being would be much better served by using some common sense.

Similarly, spraying a hornet's nest with water is my right, too, but I run the risk of getting stung by hundreds of angry hornets should I spray them with foolhardy abandon.

(Note: I am not equating Muslims with smelly bullies or venomous insects; I am merely providing examples of idiotic - though "free" - behavior)

MP said...

Personally, I find that Salman Rushdie is a good author. Do I find that he's done anything so great as to deserve knighthood? Not really.

Same with Mick Jagger, and to a lesser extent, Paul McCartney. I mean, great musicians? Absolutely. Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Artists? You bet.

British knights? Um...

Well, I think it indicates that knighthood really doesn't mean as much as it used to. Hopefully, those who protest Rushdie will shrug this event off as not that big of a deal.

Yeah, right.

Regardless, whoever is in charge of it, British knighthood doesn't mean as much as it once did, I think all can agree. Rushdie's knighthood, at the very least, is an indicator of that.

Stephanie said...

HM,

"I'm telling the LAOH on you, Historychic, for sticking up for the Queen."

Maybe it's my own bias shining through, but I don't necessarily see Historychic's response as "sticking up" for anyone. Maybe I'm just too independent, but I can't see comparing someone with a rubber stamp to be complimentary or defensive.

However, that being said, I can't claim an understanding of the continued monarchy. I mean, really what is a knighthood now. Is it more than a title? It used to involve an enormous amount of priviledge; does it still?

I have not information on that score and am certainly not interested enough to discover the answers for myself.

Anonymous said...

"I am referring to the geopolitical imbecility of unnecessarily riling up people who are already predisposed to resent (or hate) you."

By that yardstick, my dear HistoryMike, you would not be saying things against the monarchy so publicly given that you may well be "unnecessarily riling up people who are already predisposed to resent (or hate) you" for your particular views on such matters. Namely, pro-monarchists. :)

If it is all right for you to expect to air your own views without being fatwa-ed by rabid monarchists, why should the Queen, Blair, and Rushdie to be denied the same right against rabid Muslims?