If the only means you can think of expressing your disagreement with some cartoons — however unsavoury — is murder, you need to be treated on your terms. Andcould we stop that facile ‘all are equal’ apology? Islamist fundamentalism is the greatest force of Evil facing humanity.
|One of the innumerable acts of lampooning Muslims by Charlie Hebdo|
As international media beamed the pictures of lamentation, a few statesmen sounded their resolve to fight the menace, and some people invoked Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” theory. Indian television relegated the news to captions and tickers, playing up the bytes of an idiotic MP called SakshiMaharaj and stoked the anger of some Opposition leaders.
Some apologists of the bygone powers seized the opportunity to further the ‘all religions—or at least religionists—are equal’ credo.And some began reminiscing about NathuramGodse’s assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in the same breath.
Take a few like Godse apart, and this comparison turns odious. Hindus outraged by works of art wouldn’t rush to the ‘creative’ team and butcher them in cold blood in the name of their gods like the mujahideen do in the name of their unitary God and his ultimate Prophet.Hindu hoodlums could vandalise the art house’s office with sticks nevertheless, and then appear at night on television to argue their case. But the difference does not lie merely in the expressions: automatic firearms guaranteed to kill versus bamboo sticks plus iron rods that ensure, at the most, damage to property and some injured victims.
The bigger difference is undeniable. Something must be done to stop extremist Muslims whose actions are so devastating that the fear they instil in hearts worldwide cannot be allayed by platitudes (though undoubtedly true) that most Muslims are moderates. Of course they would be, they are human beings, and the vast majority of human beings want to lead peaceful lives and want to be left in peace.
But, admit this, for it is the truth. The world is today petrified by Islamist terrorism alone; no amount of leeway shown to Hindu fundamentalists can ever lead to a situation where Hindus would be seen forming Hindus in different countries and marauding round the globe shooting and bombing people and places at will in the name of guarding Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara or Mahakali.
As for freedom of expression, when India expressed solidarity with the victims, led by NarendraModi on Twitter, an inevitable question was hurled at the Prime Minister that finally reached the doorsteps of Swarajya as well. The premier was asked whether upholding liberty was part of his broader policy. We were asked whether we could dare to reproduce those cartoons.
There are three parts in the answer. First, we could, provided this nation-state develops to that stage of acceptance of all kinds of commentary that the West has been accustomed to for the past century or that we were once used to in a remote, ancient Bharatavarsha. To reach that stage, we must first ask the questioners—all of whom happened to be Hindu, with a mix of endorsers and critics of the movie PK — whether they would take it in their stride when fashion designers from New York to Paris paint their deities on lingerie, bathroom slippers and toilet seats. This is not a hypothetical question; incidents exactly of this nature have happened in the past, and Hindus were hurt by it.
Second, even if the fringe like the Hindu goons above or those who did not let Deepa Mehta’sWater to be shot in India are not counted, the Indian state is guilty of institutionalising intolerance by being the first country to ban Satanic Verses in the late 1980s and then going on to force Kamal Haasan to delete ‘objectionable’ scenes from his Vishwaroopam. Before we are asked to reproduce cartoons mocking a faith, a thick-skinned India must evolve and be in place.
Third, freedom cannot be absolute. It’s time we brought into this debate over freedom of expression the aspect of freedom of atheism or irreverence. While the individual must be entitled to choose between belief and scepticism, the compulsive proclivity of the atheist to have fun at the expense of the theist betrays a modicum of sadism.
A controversial cartoon in Charlie… for example, had a Muslim-looking character trying to stop bullets with a copy of the Qur’an and then cursing the holy book for failing to do so with a word I wouldn’t use for the book even if granted complete freedom and foolproof security. There was another where Mohammed was shown with a joker’s red nose.
|The terrorists move in on the officer as Ahmed Merabet, who is believed to have been a Muslim, lies wounded on the pavement|
Photo from Daily Mail of the UK
As an editor of a magazine or newspaper, I will not offer space to this bunch to spit at will on perfectly harmless beliefs of people. But, as a rationalist, I will create in my paper a dedicated column for atheists who are learned enough and can argue their point lucidly enough to make believers in sky daddies run for cover in the face of their intellectual onslaught.
But that is about what I would do as a person and a professional, and this is my personal opinion about New Age atheists and their constant insults to perfectly civilized people who are neither prolesytizingnor spreading inter-religious hatred, but quietly finding their peace in their faiths.
The world today faces, not “a clash of civilizations”, but a clash between civilization and an uncivilized regressive and deranged force that is powered by a certain interpretation of one particular religion. It is, quite simply, a war between the Potential of Good and the Purity of Evil, and you cannot take Islam out of it, nor can you do a nuanced balancing act—the time for that is over.
If the sword is used to silence a pen, then the one wielding the sword is outside the pale of all positive historical processes that have led humankind to where we are today. He is a rabid beast and should be treated as such.
A character in Albert Camus’ novel The Plague said that because he could understand everyone, he was unable to judge anybody. Graham Greene once wrote that all violence is primarily a breakdown in communication.
After Peshawar and Paris, we can say that they were well-meaning but mistaken philosophers.
There is nothing to understand here, or communicate about, and no need to. One should only judge, and there can be only one just judgement.
If cold-blooded murder is the only way you think you can express your disagreement with a few cartoons, you need to be exterminated. Unless you see the True Light and learn to draw a few cartoons yourself, expressing your point of view.
Edited by Sandipan Deb