On June 16, fiction writer Salman Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his service to literature, British media reported. Sir Salman Rushdie, as the author is now known, was among nineteen nonresident Indians who were recognized by the queen for their contribution to various fields.
The announcement set off a firestorm of controversy, as spokesmen for Iran and Pakistan condemned the knighthood as an insult to Islam. Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, was quoted by the Guardian as saying the decision to knight Rushdie was an orchestrated act of aggression against Islamic societies and described Rushdie as "one of the most hated figures" in the Islamic world. Last week, protesters threw stones and eggs at the British embassy in Tehran. Yesterday, Islamic hardliners in Pakistan burned an effigy of Queen Elizabeth and demanded that Britain withdraw Rushdie's knighthood.
Rushdie, the former president of PEN American Center, is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emory Univeristy in Atlanta. He is the author of Midnight's Children (Jonathan Cape, 1980), The Satanic Verses (Viking, 1988), and most recently, Shalimar the Clown (Random House, 2005). In 1989, Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemned The Satanic Verses as blasphemy and issued a fatwa calling for the author's death. Rushdie went into hiding for a decade.
When the author accepted the teaching position at Emory last year, the university's president, James Wagner, called the author "a courageous champion of human rights and freedom."