Left: 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.