Critics of Salman Rushdie’s knighthood as diverse as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Muhammad Ijaz ul-Haq, Lord Ahmed and the Muslim Council of Britain are happily lumped together by Jo Glanville in her defence of Rushdie at Comment is Free. All are guilty of “driving a wedge between east and west, between Muslim and non-Muslim”. Glanville concludes: “This level of intimidation against writers and intellectuals who wish to explore, criticise or pass comment on Islam is anathema to free speech.”
And how exactly has the Muslim Council of Britain “intimidated” Salman Rushdie, pray tell? This is the MCB’s reasoned response to the announcement of Rushdie’s knighthood. Indeed, as Salma Yaqoob has pointed out, the reaction of British Muslims has in general been extremely restrained, as exemplified by the fact that “the Muslim Council of Britain did not rally a protest, but sent out a message of calm (which duly received very little interest in the mainstream media)”.
Meanwhile, over at the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Sean Matgamna joins in the attack on the MCB over the Rushdie case. He quotes the entirely reasonable statement by MCB secretary-general Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari:
“Salman Rushdie earned notoriety amongst Muslims for the highly insulting and blasphemous manner in which he portrayed early Islamic figures. The granting of a knighthood to him can only do harm to the image of our country in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world. Many will interpret the knighthood as a final contemptuous parting gift from Tony Blair to the Muslim world.”
This, Matgamna asserts, is merely “a soft-voiced version of the demand that non-Muslims comply with the rules and judgements of the most bigoted Muslims”.
He concludes with an ultimatum to those on the Left arguing against rewarding a provocateur like Rushdie who has made such a negative contribution to community relations: “break with your Islamic clerical-fascist allies, or again be the mouthpiece and outrider in Britain for extreme political and religious reaction”.