Northern Light

Ibn Warraq praises the knighting of Salman Rushdie.

In 1995 Ibn Warraq published the international bestseller %%AMAZON=0879759844 Why I Am Not a Muslim%%. The book has been translated into several languages and was written in response to the Rushdie affair, Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa in February 1989 on Salman Rushdie and the ensuing riots, assassinations and debate. Yesterday I asked Ibn Warraq to share his thoughts with Pajamas Media on the knighting of Salman Rushdie. Here is his comment:


“I was delighted when I heard of Salman Rushdie’s knighthood, but quite clearly thousands of Muslims around the world, who took to the streets burning effigies of the writer, were not. Various fanatical groups such as the Organization to Commemorate Martyrs of the Muslim World offered rewards for Rushdie’s assassination.

“Could and should the British government have foreseen the reactions? There was immediate speculation as to the motives for bestowing this honour on a writer hated in the Islamic world as an apostate and blasphemer. Rushdie has acquired enough literary awards and prizes–the Booker of Bookers prize, the Whitbread novel award (twice), the James Tait Black memorial prize–to justify the knighthood on purely literary merits, and yet one wonders if there was not after all an extra-literary reason for the decision. One could see the knighthood as a magnificent gesture signaling Britain’s determination to abide by its values and traditions–the tradition of free speech, the tradition of reverence for its artists. The riots and reactions in Pakistan and Iran certainly underline the enormous gap in the worldviews of the West and the Rest. We should, in the West, celebrate the knighthood as a grand defiant statement, and drink to Sir Salman.”