Shim Jae Hoon at PostGlobal

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. He was a correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review in Seoul, Taipei and Jakarta. Close.

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. more »

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The Most Uncompromising Kind of Imperialism

The Muslim firebrands demonstrating against the British monarchy's decision to bestow knighthood upon Salman Rushdie are doing their best to exaggerate the importance of this honor. The honor has been bestowed not for his alleged blasphemy of the Prophet Mohammad but for services rendered as a writer of English literature.

There is no reason for them to take personal offense to this gesture, which has been given to a variety of personalities from many nations. Nor is this the first time that such an honor has gone to a writer perceived as critical of the Muslim world. Anyone who has read V.S. Naipaul's two penetrating books on his journeys to Muslim countries, Pakistan included, should know where he stands on the unforgiving culture of Muslims towards people of other faiths.

The problem with Muslim fundamentalism is that it is so exclusive as to demand nothing but submission to its kind of zealotry; and by insisting that we yield to the "sensitivity" of these fundamentalists, they seek to impose their values on nonbelievers. It is what Naipaul calls the most uncompromising kind of imperialism. By making such a to-do, the demonstrators bring the spotlight onto their own cultural and religious intolerance.

Besides, why should the British monarchy defer to the feelings of people in other countries in deciding whom it should honor? Should such recognition be determined by political considerations? Must such recognition be withheld in the name of "national interest" or "diplomatic sensitivity"? Where were these self-righteous demonstrators when members of the Taliban in Afghanistan destroyed the ancient statue of Buddha on the Silk Road a few years ago by firing artillery shells at it? Should Chinese, Japanese or Sri Lankans hold noisy protests before their Pakistani or Afghan embassies?

Indeed, we are quite familiar with such a display of cultural myopia. Think of China's Qin emperor Shihuangdi. Angered by scholars complaining of his tyrannical rule, he had all books -- except for those on farming, fortune-telling and medicine -- seized and torched. For good measure, those who criticized his rule were buried alive. More than 2,200 years later, every child in Asia grows up learning the lesson of Shihuangdi. Stay away from such excesses.

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