Moan, moan, moan! Arise, Sir . . .

They gave Sir Salman a knightood, and guess who complained about it! Yep. The usual suspects. So I had a rant about this in Bill’s Underground Edition last week. Here it is.

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I have a confession to  make: I occasionally abandon books I’ve begun reading because I’m getting bored rigid. I’ve just done it with a Stephen King one. Yes, that master of horror Stephen King. But this one is just crap storytelling, I’m afraid. It’s called Cell, and the premise is silly and the story just one long linear narrative with no tangential intrigue and just three boring characters, and I find myself hoping the crazy people get to them and dispose of them.

I began reading Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses some years ago. I gave up on that, too. I found it boring, tedious, tiresome, making me say life’s too short. I keep meaning to go back to it and try again – especially now that Mr Rushdie is Sir Salman. Not because the book will have improved any, but because I feel I owe it to him.

Once again, this quality writer has come in for death threats because people with an overdose of superstition perceive some sort of offence in what he’s written. Something to do with a historical figure they call a prophet. No one has yet told me what he prophesied, but that’s by the bye.

Now I do believe people should be allowed to believe whatever they wish, and I believe I should be allowed to call it balderdash, piffle and poppycock – or even worse – if I so choose. They can always argue with me, provided they use logic and reason. That’s part of the free speech we have in the UK – although that seems to be diminishing, what with so-called religious-offence legislation and the emergence of what are laughably being called ‘faith crimes’.

Faith crimes? Blimey! You can commit a sort of special crime by attacking somebody because of his choice of superstitions? That’s yampy, that is. You bash him over the head with a stick and, quite rightly, are taken to court for it. You bash him over the head with a stick because he’s a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jedi Knight or a Scientologist, and it’s something more than assault: it’s something heinous. Oh, wait a minute, the UK doesn’t recognise Scientology as a religion, does it? Sees it as some sort of barmy doctrine, a cult, which of course, the nutty Scientologists deny. But, then, they would, wouldn’t they? Your Tom Cruises and your John Travoltas. Total fruitcakes.

But the other religions. Oh, yes – faith crimes indeed!

I’m just glad that the Racial and Religions Hatred Act or whatever it was called, which creates an offence of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion, got so watered down in the end that it might as well not be on the statute book. The Act was the New Labour’s third attempt to bring in this nonsense: provisions were originally included as part of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill in 2001, but were dropped after objections in the House of Lords. Good for their lordships, I say. The nonsense was again brought forward as part of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill in 2004–5, but was again dropped in order to get the body of that Bill passed before the 2005 general election.So what’s the message we’re getting? That most legislators just don’t want this nonsense? That seems to be about the size of it.

But you can bet your bottom that those who object to Salman Rushdie’s knightood will bleat and whine, burn books, burn effigies, threaten suicide bombings until the British government make some concession, somewhere, somehow. Fortunately, they won’t take the knightood off Sir Salman, I’m glad to say: that’s irrevocable now unless he does something naughty such as shoot Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (Oops! Was that incitement? I don’t think he heard me!)

I think we live in interesting times. Let’s just wait and see what happens in the free-speech and free-expression departments, shall we? But, once they start stripping us of our hard-won freedoms because fruitcakes burn books, as used to happen in medieval times, then it’s time to protest for a genuine cause. Keep those banners and slogans handy. You never know when you may need them.

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About Andrew John

Andrew John is a writer, editor and broadcaster with Celtica, providing, among other things, a weekly moan on a topic in the news. He spends much of his life moaning and criticising, and is crap company at parties. But just humour him. He's not a bad bloke, really.

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