Sunday, August 12, 2007

Excellent article on the Taslima Nasreen episode

There is this excellent article by Jug Suraiya in the Times of India that took on the Taslima Nasreen episode, namely the attack on her (including by elected representatives of the MIM), and subsequent silence by most of our liberal class. Called 'Taslima and the soft underbelly of liberalism', do read the article:

Where have all the liberals gone, now that Taslima Nasreen, the outspoken Bangladeshi novelist living in exile in India, has come under attack from Islamic fundamentalists? Barkha Dutt and a few other media people have questioned the scant protest the incident has provoked among the country's liberalati who are, rightly, very vocal in condemning any flexing of Hindu fundamentalist muscle.
This is not an isolated case. Time and again, acts of violence and intimidation by Hindu zealots have been pilloried while similar instances of Islamic bigotry and intolerance have been received with an embarrassed silence and an averting of eyes on the part of self-professed champions of freedom of expression.
All this, of course, is gleeful grist to Hindu fundamentalists who point to this blatant example of double-standards to show up the hypocrisy of what they call 'pseudo secularism'. And they're right. Bigotry is bigotry, whether it comes from the majority or a minority community. So what's the liberal justification of its selective righteousness in the face of religious fanaticism?

Jug Suraiya writes on comedy, but he must have been moved enough to write this. And this is not an isolated problem. There was a vast under-current of shock when there was the furore over the Danish cartoons, and when a UP Minister (mind you, an important politician in the most important state of the country) spoke about an award to whoever gets the head of the Danish cartoonist, there was some media coverage; but no major criticism on the incitement to murder and no police action. Imagine if some Hindu (you know who, the Bajrang Dal or the VHP) put a price on the head of M F Hussain over the nude statues of Hindu gods, then imagine the furore there will be.
But when this happens in the case of Islam, there are very few people who speak up. In previous occasions, it has been people like Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar who have spoken up to denounce this, but none of the customary liberal apologists such as the Left parties and the intellectuals. Maybe they don't realize this, but they lose an important amount of credibility when this happens.
And not to talk about election stuff. How much do you want to bet that the BJP will not try to use this, creating CD's of the release of Madani in Kerala and his courting by the various parties, and also this current threat. To top it all, the Andhra police released the politicians involved very quickly, and then filed a case against Taslima over the charge of insulting religious feelings.
This puts very clearly, the attempt of Y S Reddy (Andhra Chief Minister) to not do anything against Muslim interest. This will no doubt backfire on him. The MIM retains a hard core Muslim loyalty, and this gambit might lose his some Hindu votes. But then thinking ahead is not the strong point of the Congress. The biggest losers among all this are the liberals who have been pointed out as bigots by even mainline newspapers.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:27 AM