Friday, June 22, 2007

Poor Salman Rushdie ...

Accused of having "blood on his hands" and compared with the "the martyrs of the September 11 attacks on the United States?”

Oliver Kamm has this to say about the more universal aspect of the Rushdie affair:

There is a superficial plausibility to the claims of political moderates such as Shirley Williams and her old (and current) party. There comes a stage in your political evolution, however - or at least in mine - when, faced with the enemies of free expression and Western civilisation, you realise that only immoderation and intolerance will do. Whatever else you may say about Tony Blair as he steps down, you can have no doubt he understands that point and has done for a long time - since long before President Bush took office. That's the most important reason for regarding him with admiration. It was commonly said, in the early days on new Labour, that Tony Blair was testament to the belated influence of the late SDP. But he wasn't: he was much, much better than that.

I do have a problem with the characterization of the decision to award Rushdie the knighthood as "immoderation and intolerance". If that is indeed what Kamm means to imply. How can recognition of Rushdie's talent and achievements be thus described? Isn't this the essence of the democratic ethos, the acknowledgement of the exceptional individual in a society of many other individuals?

As Flemming Rose, here, reminds us:

“The only right you don’t have in a democracy is the right not to be offended.”
These words by New York law professor
Ronald Dworkin come to mind when reading about the angry Muslim reactions after last week’s decision by Queen Elizabeth to knight Salman Rushdie.


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