The fact that anyone has to ‘defend’ the decision to knight Rushdie…

… Is ridiculous, at best. At worst, it’s disturbing and sad. And the fact that other British politicians are using this situation as an opportunity to score points by feigning deep concern for Britain’s relationship with Pakistan is to be expected. The hardliners in Pakistan will take any excuse to steer the mob.

As a writer, I am profoundly irked by all this. I am especially irked, because all of this is being painted as a huge embarrassment for Britain. Embarrassment? Please. If anyone should feel embarrassed, it’s the people who are shouting slogans in defense of a vile code of blood vengeance that thinking Muslims reject (please don’t show up in my comments and start talking about how “real Muslims” are more than happy to spill the blood of anyone who dares inconvenience the nonexistent “Islamic state” – I’ve been around the block, and I know that Islam is a whole lot more interesting and complex than the fanatics make it out to be).

The funny thing is, like Jack Straw, I’m not even a fan of Rushdie. Unlike Jack Straw, I won’t pretend that the sociopathic bloodlust exhibited by people who can’t be bothered to understand literature (even the sort of literature that I don’t, personally, read) is even remotely legitimate (Naturally, Straw is referring to the well-mannered protests regarding this issue, at least I hope he is, but any compromise, at this point, will threaten the integrity of a relatively free British society, for a number of very specific reasons).

The fact that Pakistani officials used the word “Islamophobia” to refer to all this was particularly hilarious. “Islamophobia,” really? A country honours a prolific writer… Because it’s afraid of Islam? And not because, say, it simply doesn’t give a hoot about someone else’s interpretation of religion as coupled with a non-interpretation of a novel? Speaking of books, someone should really send these people a copy of He’s Just Not That Into You. I don’t doubt that some British officials privately predicted the possibility of a controversy – but all of this only means that Pakistani hard-liners are playing directly into their hands. It’s all politics, it’s all dirty. Writers get lost in this, it’s hard for a writer to breathe in this atmosphere. It’s especially sad that Rushdie’s writing should be so overshadowed, once again.

Oh, and apparently, now we can compare Rushdie to Osama. Wow, I hadn’t realized that this writer has killed thousands of people! Where would I be without the good “scholars” to set me straight?!

I wasn’t going to blog about this situation – because I don’t want to give the mob undeserved attention. But then I read some of the apologetics out there, and got angry. The liberal press will not (and should not) give a free pass to people who say things like, “let’s bomb Iran to smithereens.” The same thing should always go for the other side. And yet Salon is comparatively tame on the subject, of course. And what’s up with this whole West is West, East is East, thing anyway? There are people in all parts of the world who do not live by false dichotomies. Yet of course, the initial liberal impulse is to gently, and condescendingly, point out all of our wonderful “differences.” Them Eastern peoples, they’re just so diverse from us! Wow. I’m offended on behalf of Muslims everywhere now.

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