The institution of knighthood received a shot in its rusty armoured arm when Pakistan’s Parliament passed a resolution condemning Salman Rushdie being knighted by the British monarch. Pakistan, one of the few feudal societies that is proud of being feudal, also insisted that “the title of Sir given to Rushdie” be taken back. Rushdie, who fervently hoped that the knighthood would provide him with some cachet before the literary season kicks off in New York, has reportedly been ecstatic about the Pakistani reaction. Knighthood, it seems, still matters to some people.
Being a knight lost much of its sheen when a gaggle of gents — such as Sir Elton and Sir Mick, both ageing popular minstrels, received the Elizabethan tap on the shoulder. It seemed after a point that everyone, including — horror of horrors! — Sir Paul, who as a Beatle had smoked a joint in Buckingham Palace before receiving his MBE in 1965 — was being knighted these days. So for ordinary Salman to become Sir Salman would have been a quiet affair — if it wasn’t for the gents from Islamabad reminding Brits from the Queen downwards that Rushdie was a rotten bounder for writing The Satanic Verses and that the title ‘Sir’ should not be conferred on him.
What the reaction to Salman’s sir-hood in Pakistan may have done is to elicit interest in the book that should not be named among a new generation. And, make knighthood a teeny-weeny bit more cool than it was before.