Bill Emmott at PostGlobal

Bill Emmott

Great Britain

Bill Emmott is the former editor of The Economist magazine, a leading international current affairs publication from England. He is now an independent writer, speaker, and consultant on international affairs. Close.

Bill Emmott

Great Britain

Bill Emmott is the former editor of The Economist magazine, a leading international current affairs publication from England. more »

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Just the Sort We Should Honor

Personally, I find all knighthoods needlessly provocative: why should anyone be given the right to attach the word “sir” to their name, as if they were some kind of medieval warrior? (Memo to Queen Elizabeth: in the unlikely event you were thinking of including me in your next list, please press the delete button. But, Ma’am, “duke” I would consider…) Still, if my country is foolish enough to continue to hand out knighthoods, I cannot see how Salman Rushdie should be disqualified.

After all, he is one of Britain’s most successful and highly reputed writers. He is just the sort of figure that we should give honors to. Most probably, the fatwa that Ayatollah Khomeini launched against him in 1989 added to that reputation and celebrity. By that action, Iran made sure that many hundreds of millions of people became aware of Mr. Rushdie and his books, especially “The Satanic Verses,” who would otherwise never have heard of him. No writer would wish this to happen to them, but nevertheless the cloud of the death threat had a silver lining. It brought him, and his work, to a much wider audience. It also, however, forced him to suffer for his freedom to write and speak as he wishes, and thus to defend and support one of the basic elements of our democratic society.

The fatwa was issued in 1989. The knighthood has been granted in 2007. So Britain has waited 18 years to give Mr. Rushdie that honor. And that is being called “needlessly provocative”? This reaction is not only ridiculous. It is offensive.

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