Rochdale MP calls for review of Honour's System

Date published: 22 June 2007

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen has challenged Leader of the Commons Jack Straw over the controversial Honour's System. Speaking at Business Questions in a House of Commons Debate the Rochdale MP asked Mr Straw: "I am sure that the Leader of the House, representing as he does Blackburn and Darwen, is aware of the concern in the Muslim community about the award of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie. May we have a debate on the honours system, and how that decision was arrived at?"

Jack Straw responded by saying: "I am aware of that concern. Let me offer a personal view. I am afraid that I have found Salman Rushdie's books rather difficult and have never managed to get to the end of any of them, despite my basic rule that if one starts a book one has to finish it. I am afraid that his writing defeated me.

"Of course I understand the concerns and sensitivity in the community. That said, and I am sure that this would meet with the approval of the whole House, there can be no justification whatever for suggestions that as a result of this a further fatwa should be placed on Mr. Rushdie's life."

Mr Rowen said after the debate "I am sure that like Rochdale, Mr Straw has had a number of complaints from Constituents who are furious at this award. I've got to say that I was surprised to see the honour bestowed on Mr Rushdie, especially when I felt that a number of respected authors who have made a real contibution to this country have been ignored.

Tony Blair and the Labour Government must have predicted the uproar that recognition of this kind would cause. They rubber stamped the decision made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport their own Department. The Honour's System has proved controversial over the last 18 months, especially with the Cash for Honours Enquiry, and they should have practised a little common sense in this case.

"That said, I do not condone some of the comments made by senior members of the Pakistan Government.  I am glad that the inflammatory comments, especially about suicide bombings have been withdrawn."

The Rochdale MP said finally: "It was only this week that Mr Straw was recommending that the House debates more topical debates. I am sure then that he will accept my request."

The Rochdale branch of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (APL (a team of Pakistani origin lawyers, solicitors, barristers, amp; judges in  the UK)) jointly expressed their gratitude to Paul Rowen for raising the issue of what they say is "an untimely honour issued to Salman Rushdie", which "disregards possible fall outs and 2 million Muslim sensitivities in the UK and 1.5 billion around the world."

APL confirmed that this honour is given at a time when Muslims are working hard to bridge-build in communities after the events of September 11 and 7 July. A spokesperson said: "Honouring those who cause the divide further will alienate the main stream community and will not go well with the Muslim Community and we would demand the withdrawal of that status forthwith as the writer’s contribution is not only conflicting but has caused hurt to billions of human souls around the world."

"The British Government must take the responsibility and make amends for this lapse."

APL jointly requested Mr Rowen MP for Rochdale to raise this issue with Prime Minster Tony Blair to convey thier feelings about the issue and the possible withdrawal of what they declared to be an "un-assessed honour at a difficult time to avoid public outrage and stopping this issue from escalate=ing into violent riots."

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