Britain gives a knighthood to Salman Rushdie and then...
Effigies of Queen Elizabeth are being burnt in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Parliament passes a resolution condemning the award.
Britain's representative in Pakistan is summoned to the foreign ministry for a rebuke.
Pakistan's Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq says that the knighthood for Mr Rushdie could justify suicide attacks on Britain.
[Let's not forget that Britain is home for over 800,000 immigrants from Pakistan.]
An Iranian foreign ministry official calls the Rushdie honour provacative and says that "the consequences of this provocation, which has angered Muslims, will be directed at the British Queen and government."
I ask for a statement from Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and am told by a Conservative HQ staffer: "Sorry. No Comment From Us."
Has Parliament discussed this issue today? No.
Pusillanimous is the word that comes to mind.
There's worse to come...
Few Conservatives would put Mr Rushie at the top of any list for a knighthood but I hope that most would also reject the idea that any foreign power should veto the awarding of an honour. In an interview with ePolitix.com, Conservative MP Stewart Jackson mouths a rejection of any such a veto but goes on to effectively claim that we have sent the wrong message to Pakistan:
"We do not need a situation where we are gratuitously offending our allies in the fight against terror. I believe it was wrong and I think the Prime Minister's office should think very carefully about that decision. If you are going to give a knighthood to someone then you have to bear in mind the message what the message you are giving is going to be. It is for Her Majesty and the government to decide who they give honours to and not open to the veto of a foreign power but it does convey an important message and the timing was very insensitive particularly with ongoing problems with Iran and the instability in Pakistan. I am not entirely certain myself whether Salman Rushdie is deserving of a knighthood given his ingratitude to the taxpayers of this country for protecting him form the fatwah for the best part of 10 years and the fact that he is not normally resident in the United Kingdom and the fact that essentially he writes rubbish books - for all those reasons he does not deserve a knighthood.”
Stewart Jackson is the one who is sending out the wrong message. We need to show Muslim nations that free speech is non-negotiable for us. Peter Whittle of the New Culture Forum has a good post on what's at stake here.
Related link: Pakistan is an incubator for terrorism
10.45am update on 20/6: From today's Times: "Paul Goodman, the Tory MP for Wycombe, said that the UK should demand an apology from the highest reaches of the Pakistani government for Mr ul-Haq's comments and compared the Government's response to its quiet stand in the protests over Danish newspaper cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad last year. “Our own Government should call for such a condemnation without delay," he said. "Instead, there appears to be radio silence on the matter from ministers. It’s Groundhog Day from the Government on incitement from terror: in the aftermath of the Danish cartoon protests in London, ministers stood idly by. It’s the same feeble story today.”"
- "What assessment he has made of the impact of UK aid to Pakistan in strengthening freedom of speech in Pakistan."
- "What assessment he has made of the impact of UK aid to Pakistan in reducing violations of religious freedom in Pakistan."
- "What assessment he has made of the impact of UK aid to Pakistan in reducing anti-British extremism in Pakistan."
- "What discussions he has had with the Ambassador of Pakistan about continuance of UK aid to Pakistan in light of the official rebuke by Pakistani authorities over HM Queen's birthday honours."
- "The amount of aid given to Pakistan by his Department in each of the
last five years, and planned expenditure for the next three years."