Almost two decades after being threatened with death for "insulting Islam," Salman Rushdie has been knighted by the Queen. He is now "Sir Salman." It is proof that, while it is only now contemplating a formal separation of the Church of England from the state, Britain is a country essentially committed to religious liberty.
The reaction to the knighthood in the greater Middle East is proving who is not committed to religious liberty and freedom of thought. A Pakistani politician declares that the knighthood reveals the "root cause of terrorism"—and so it does, but not in the way he thinks. The root cause of terrorism is Islam and its demand that its adherents take up the sword to enforce submission to their faith.
"Rushdie's Knighthood 'Justifies Suicide Attacks'," Peter Foster, Daily Telegraph, June 18 A Pakistani cabinet minister said today that the decision to knight Sir Salman Rushdie was a justification for suicide bombing, after the parliament in Islamabad condemned the honour as "blasphemous and insulting" to the world's Muslims.
As MPs issued a demand for the award to be immediately withdrawn, the religious affairs minister, Mohammad Ejaz-ul-Haq, said: "The West always wonders about the root cause of terrorism. Such actions [giving Rushdie a knighthood] are the root cause of it.
"If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the Prophet Mohammed, his act is justified."…
Pakistan's religious parties ordered supporters onto the streets of two provincial cites today. Effigies of both the Queen and Sir Salman were burned while some protestors chanted "Kill him! Kill him!"
Sir Salman, 59, who said he was "thrilled" to be knighted, was forced to live in hiding for nine years after Iran's late spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill the British author for allegedly insulting Islam's holy Prophet in The Satanic Verses.
It was not until 1998, when the Iranian government said that it would not support the outstanding fatwa, that the author took the decision to return to public life.