He is now Sir Salman Rushdie, and the Muslim world is -- once more -- afire with indignation.
Along with th predictable calls for his death ("If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so," according to a Pakistani official) and insults to Queen Elizabeth ("the old Engish crone," according to a newspaper), there is also a curious remark by Lord Ahmed, the first Muslim peer.
"I was appalled to hear Salman Rushdie had been given a knighthood," Lord Ahmed is quoted as having said. "...This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world. Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far."
Oh spare me, milawd. The guy writes novels. And, because of the astonishing inability of the Muslim world to grasp concepts like freedom of expression, his novel-writing has inadvertently made him an international symbol of a core Western value.
Blood on his hands? No. Zarqawi and bin Laden and Arafat have blood on their hands. Bush and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have blood on their hands. The people who blow up commuter trains and bus stations have blood on their hands, as do the people who look the other way while their subordinates commit war crimes. There is plenty of blood on plenty of hands these days. But not on Rushdie's.
The guy writes novels. Stories. He makes stuff up. He doesn't make policy. He doesn't command a militia. Nobody is forced to read Rushdie's little flirtations with blasphemy, any more than they are forced to consume the gory muck of mid-career Stephen King or the brand-name sadomasochism of Ian Fleming. At least for those of us who have finished high school English classes, the rule is simple: If you don't like a book, you don't have to read it. If it insults you, don't buy it. If you think it is really, really offensive, you might organize a boycott. Or better yet, write and sell a better book.
But let's face the facts, Lord Ahmed (and all the rest of you thin-skinned Sons of the Prophet). The poets and strorytellers aren't the ones with blood on their hands. The murderers are.