The “Sword of Allah.” The jokes I could write… But I won’t.

A LEADING group of Pakistani Islamic scholars today awarded its highest honour to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, saying it was in reaction to Britain’s knighthood for Salman Rushdie.

Meanwhile, a Pakistani minister who caused outrage by remarking that the award given to the Satanic Verses author justified suicide attacks announced that he was set to visit Britain next month.

That’s a lot to pack into two short paragraphs. Taking the last first, is the UK dumb enough to let that guy in, knowing that he a) hates Rushdie’s knighthood enough to justify suicide bombing and b) will be in the country to “clarify” his remarks? Yeah, probably. It’s really not hard to think of a thing or two he might do while in country to put the exclamation point on his remarks, though.

The Pakistani Ulema Council, a private body that claims to be the biggest of its kind in the country with 2000 scholars, said it had given Bin Laden the title “Saifullah”, or Sword of Allah.

“We are pleased to award the title of Saifullah to Osama bin Laden after the British Government’s decision to bestow the title of ‘Sir’ on blasphemer Rushdie,” council chairman Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said.

“This is the highest title for a Muslim warrior.”

And it’s being given to a mass murderer in an entirely reactionary way. Sort of like giving Jimmy Carter the Nobel Peace Prize after screwing up Iran and thereby the rest of the Middle East to bring us the war we’re fighting now, but in the name of opposing Bush. Funny thing, though, is that in giving bin Laden the award in reaction to Rushdie’s knighthood, they’re really denigrating both the Sword of Allah and their hero by connecting them to The Satanic Verses. I bet they didn’t think of that.

The group, which says it is working for religious harmony, urged President Pervez Musharraf to call an emergency meeting of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference to press Britain to withdraw the Rushdie accolade.

Religious harmony? No, no, they actually mean religious hegemony. Must have been a translation error.

There is one small bit of good news among the Rushdie rage: Pakistan’s former PM, Benazir Bhutto, has called for the religious affairs minister to fired since he said the knighthood would justify suicide bombings. She can probably expect a fatwa against her by week’s end, but still, it’s good to hear someone in Pakistan standing up against the Islamist mob. Musharraf has been notably silent so far.

The question now, is what should the UK do next? What do you think?

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