Monday, June 25, 2007
That Rushdie affair in full posted by Richard SeymourI venture, readers, that you are as sick of this idiotic topic as I am. Should Salman have received the gong? Was it the right time? Must we always give in to these zealots? Doesn't 'Sir Salman' have a nice ring to it? Doesn't he have a nice ring to him? Etc etc. So I will make this quick. I will admit, at the risk of being considered a fence-sitter, that I am almost as sick of the tawdry arguments against his knighthood as the endless arse-kissing and adulation in favour of it. The idea, for instance, that such an award is unsuitable for someone who has offended so many Muslims is surely correct, but only because to truly merit an award from the British Empire, one ought to have killed at least a few thousand of them as well as offending the rest. It is true that Rushdie argued in favour of the war on Iraq, thus helping legitimise the murder of thousands of Muslims, but that doesn't really cut it. If he really wants to earn that despicable award from that despicable, nasty, blood-drenched crew of gangsters of both ancient and modern regimes, he needs to strap on the pith helmet and get racing to Basra. As it is, however, he has so far only written a complex work of fiction which understandably offended some Muslims, but not at all understandably also resulted in his living in fear of murder for about a decade. All because Khomeini was running into a bit of trouble after the budget-draining war with Iraq and the revelations about Iran-Contra. What's more, Rushdie did spend a lot of time apologising for the offense and even made a big deal about converting.
The trouble with 'both sides' of this preposterous argument is that a) they both invest the honours system with legitimacy, and b) they either disappear up Salman's cherubic backside or completely miss the point by waffling about legitimate offense. And the worst of it is the media coverage, which constantly references a 'row' or a 'furore', as if there is one. As if a bit of empty fist-shaking from an Iranian ambassador, a few lonely crowds of right-wing Islamists in Pakistan, and a reference to possible suicide attacks by a politician working in the shaky Pakistani military government, constitutes a brewing clash of civilisations. It doesn't help either that most of Rushdie's defenders are those who vocally favour imperialist crusades, concurrently write the most ignorant, bilious, piss-poor nonsense about Islam, and are actually moist in the crevices at seeing one of their number ennobled for services to the empire. Incidentally, one of his defenders today is a rather smug neocon provocateur named Mark Steyn. When the first bounty was offered on Rushdie's head, Steyn was full of scorn for his defenders, for Rushdie's fiction, for his left-wing politics and, strangely, for Rushdie's physionogmy which he seemed to think had been improved in hiding. Rushdie had morphed from being a "sinister Bombay exotic" to being "an amiable Julian Critchley type", but still "those unnerving eyes gave him away - more heavily hooded than ever before, rolled upwards with the upper half of the irises permanently invisible. It was like watching some sort of intermediate stage between life and death." Yes. Muslims. Faaaasands of em. Wait til you the whites of their eyes, lads.