Tuesday, March 4, 2008

WHERE IS INTERFAITH HARMONY?

By: Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@gmail.com


Giving a knighthood title to someone who is the most detested figure in the Islamic community is surely an act of blatant offense exposed by the British government against Muslim world with hampering interfaith understanding. This act shows that insulting Islamic sacred values is not accidental, it is planned, organised, guided and supported by some Western countries.

Britain is a country which proscribes mosques from using loud speakers to announce call for prayer (Azaan) and yet its own churches ring loud bells
every Saturday and Sunday. Britain is a nation which does not believe in moral values, religion or faith and yet poses before the world as the strictest of law enforcement society. Britain is a society which encourages gay rights, abortion, live-in without marriage and yet spares no one who evades taxes. Britain is a society which openly condemns terrorism and yet acts as the right hand for all actions leading to mass massacre and terrorism in the Muslim world. Britain is a country which does not spare traffic offences and yet gives shelter to terrorists under political asylum from across the world. Britain needs no democracy as it has the highest level of hypocrisy in every aspect of its social life. Last but surely not least, Britain is a country which speaks of no ill-feelings to the Muslim world and yet slaps hard at the entire Muslim faith by knighting infamous characters like Salman Rushdie.

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, 60, one of the almost 950 people to appear on the Queen’s 81st Birthday Honors list, was knighted. On Valentine’s Day in 1989 the spiritual figurehead of the Iranian revolution pronounced on Teheran radio that: “The author of The Satanic Verses(1988), which is against Islam, the Prophet, the Qura’n, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Since then, Salman Rushdie lived as a virtual prisoner, changing addresses constantly, and protected around the clock by British security at an estimated cost of £10 million.

Salam Rushdie’s fourth book - The Satanic Verses in 1988, described an enormous battle between good and evil and combines fantasy, philosophy and travesty. It was immediately condemned by the Islamic world because of its perceived blasphemous representation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Born in Bombay now Mumbai on 19th June, 1947, Rushdie has accumulated for himself a fair number of distinctions over the years; among them the Booker of Bookers prize for Midnight’s Children in 1981, the Whitbread novel award (twice), the James Tait Black memorial prize, and a fatwa from the Ayatollah Khomeini calling for his immediate assassination. And latest distinction for the author was a knighthood, recognising the services to literature. "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and I am very grateful that my work has been recognised in this way," the newly-minted Sir Salman said in a statement.

The question of profanity in The Satanic Verses, Salman’s 1988 tale of a prophet deluded by the devil, remains an ultra-sensitive issue in much of the Muslim world and the author’s inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours has inflamed anti-British response.
Britain's decision to award Salman Rushdie a Knighthood set off a storm of protest in the Islamic world today, with a Pakistani government minister giving warning that it could provide justification for suicide bomb attacks.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett defended the award of a knighthood to Sir Salman Rushdie, but said she was "sorry" if the move had offended some Muslims. A diplomatic row has broken out over comments by a Pakistani minister that Salman Rushdie’s knighthood could justify suicide bombings. The minister, son of Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator who died in a plane crash in 1988, later withdrew his statement in parliament, and then told the AFP news agency that he meant to say that knighting Rushdie would foster extremism. "If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified," Mr ul-Haq told the National Assembly. "If someone blows himself up he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West?" he questioned? He said Pakistan should split diplomatic ties with Britain if it did not withdraw the award, adding:"We demand an apology by the British government. Their action has hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims."If Muslims do not unite, the situation will get worse and Salman Rushdie may get a seat in the British parliament." Ejaz-ul-Haq maintained.

Pakistan's lower house of parliament passed a resolution proposed by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, who branded Sir Salman Rushdie a "blasphemer." He said the honor had hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world. "This is an occasion for the (world's) 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision," Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, later said in parliament. Robert Brinkley, Britain's high commissioner to Pakistan, defended the decision to honor Rushdie for his contributions to literature. Rushdie is one of the most prominent novelists of the late 20th century whose 13 books have won numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for "Midnight's Children" in 1981.

"It is simply untrue to suggest that this in anyway is an insult to Islam or the Prophet Muhammed, and we have enormous respect for Islam as a religion and for its intellectual and cultural achievements," Brinkley said. Asked if he was concerned it could provoke unrest in Pakistan, Brinkley said, "We will just have to see where it goes from here. There's certainly no reason for that."


Jonathan Heawood, director of the English branch of Pen, said: "We have argued for a long time that Salman Rushdie should be recognized by the government as a giant of world literature. The decision to award the knighthood was entirely in the hands of the honours committee and the government. "We don't regret it. We will continue to support Salman Rushdie as we support over 1,000 writers around the world who have been persecuted as a result of their writing." The axis of evil, comprising the USA, UK and Israel has left no stone unturned to damage and destroy the already weak Muslim Ummah and the Islamic world. The axis of evil has begun a War on Terror to overshadow the spirit of Jihad. While every terrorism is condemned by the people of faith and the non-believers alike, yet the actions by the axis of evil are no short of a terrorism at mass scale, which can only be responded by a similar action of coherent and strategic warfare utilizing the combined resources (financial, military, infrastructure and intelligence) against the axis of evil by the entire Muslim World, today.

The axis of evil and their peripherals in likes of Rushdie have forgotten that ‘IF YOU HAVE FAITH YOU DO NOT FEAR’. While the feelings of the nations belonging to the axis of evil will not be damaged if someone humiliated their religious prophets, however it is time for the Muslim World to see the reaction of the axis of evil, if some one tried to humiliate the Queen or the US President and then the humiliater gets the highest medal of honor from all countries of the Muslim World.

There's very slim chances that British Government can annul the knighthood award, it would make them look weak and not possible either to make requests to a stubborn nation to retract this title from a blasphemer. It would be appropriate for Rushdie to make the decision not to accept this award, is the only way out to pacify this highly inflammable issue. He does, however, have time to reconsider since he is unlikely to be formally presented with the award by the Queen until the end of the year. No date has been set for the investiture. Two ceremonies are due to take place next month but they are likely to be for those who were named in the New Year's honours list. Rushdie could become Sir Salman in the next batch of investitures between coming October and December or early next year.

Awarding knighthood to Rushdie amounts to a blatant anti-Muslim bias, and Muslims all over the world condemn this move. This knighthood is just another example of just ousted PM Tony Blair and his government’s attempts to secularise Muslims and reward apostates. Rushdie is a disgusted figure across the Muslim world because of his insults to Islam and honoring him to insult the religious values of Muslims, will have ramifications here and across the globe. There is obviously a real danger that the knighthood controversy could ignite religious-incited violence. Other Muslim countries may also seethe in the flames of religious passion. What the UK has done is just an act of irresponsibility right at the crucial time.

Why Muslim concerns are consistently ignored by the West is point to contemplate. Why have the Muslims, especially those living in the West, not been able to counterfeit interfaith and intercultural dialogue to define the parameters of the Western belief of freedom of expression? Last but not least, will OIC member countries and Muslim all over the world alter their approach to avert further humiliation? This is an eye-opener for Muslims to make west realize that we are just as hyper-sensitive as Jews and Christians are when someone offend their religious characters/ incidents. If Rushdie’s knighthood honor is a product of his literary work, then where is interfaith harmony?


MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875

Published in The Weekly Independent
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

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