Author: Saadut
•5:14 PM


Freedom of speech is perhaps one of the most abused freedoms that people have. Often taken as a right by many people to express without responsible self control or caring about social implications, freedom of expression is more often than not misused. Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution of India at 19 (1) (a) as “to freedom of speech and expression” extended with a rider at 19 (2) “Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect…….. public order, decency or morality….. defamation or incitement to an offence”,
The only problem with freedom is the tendency of people to abuse it audaciously. When expressions either in letter or words become detrimental to the society and are likely to cause disruptions or social frictions, people have to be reigned in. Collective good of the society is far important than the right of misuse of freedom of expression.

If freedom of expression was a limitless right then vandals disrupting or likely disrupt public property and peace should have been viewed as expressing under their inalienable right of ‘freedom of expression’, because they were only expressing their anger or a desire to vandalize, steal and cause public disorder. Freedom of speech comes with a heavy responsibility. But how many of the proponents of freedom of speech actually keep in mind and discharge that responsibility?

Against every right conferred upon an individual, weighs a responsibility to be exercised by him. Sadly people, who often sermonize about their right of free speech, circumvent of their responsibilities and social self restraint.  Free speech is in reality a right to speak as you want and when you want as long as it does not cause harm to others or result in social discontentment and disorder.  Blasphemy is often the extreme end of ‘freedom of expression’ with the likely potential of inflaming religious emotions and increasing the polarization between social and religious communities.

Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ has never been acknowledged as his best book by literary critics, but it gave him more fame than any  other of his writings, only because of his open blasphemy against Islam. In spite of what many self tagged ‘liberals’ may claim, the ‘Satanic Verses’ was an intentional attempt at blasphemy and vituperation. Rushdie had not created characters ‘Gabreel, Saladin and (the false prophet in the book) Mahound (his attempt at vilifying the Prophet SAW)’ out of ignorance but with clear intent, nor was the plot of the book a mere coincidence. All this blasphemous slander and smear was pitifully well thought of. The aftermath of this work gave him more fame in the west (exactly what he was vying for) and took many innocent lives of protestors in other parts of the world (12 protestors killed in Bombay on 24th Feb 1989 when police fired on protestors).
More than two decades later the Jaipur Literary Festival again resurrected the ‘Satanic Verses’ in word and spirit. Rushdie was invited as a speaker which was met with some protesting voices within India. While political parties wanted to make hay in this melee, many Muslims genuinely felt hurt by this news. A Rajasthan police blooper or Rushdie’s own reservations ensured that the writer did not come to India, but Rushdie was nonetheless read at the event. And it was only the ‘Satanic Verses’ of Rushdie’s works that were read by many writers at the event. Rushdie has written other books which stand much acclaimed, then why were only the controversial ‘Satanic Verses’ read at the venue? Surely even by the own admission of these ‘freedom of expression’ firing ‘liberals’ the ‘Satanic Verses’ was not even among the moderate works of Rushdie, leave alone being his best, so why did the ‘thrash’ of the pick make it to the venue reading? Was this reading inspired by the value of this work or by a confrontationist desire to walk over the emotions of the minority community, to make a show of ‘Literary and Intellectual aggression’ against an inflated Islamophobic sentiment? If they really wanted to bring in the literary works of Rushdie, they would have chosen his best works not his hate spitting attempt in paper. The brave act of reading the ‘Satanic Verses’ was ironically followed by a braver act of fleeing the venue by the ‘free speech’ protagonists.  

Many ‘Lie-berals’ on social networks and on media jumped on to the ‘Rushdie’sque’ promotion bandwagon, most of whom had either not read the ‘Satanic Verses’, ‘The Quran’, or the both. In their badly sought self promotion and PR opportunity they often claimed to represent everybody in the debate, yet speaking up for only confusion.  Everybody suddenly wanted to become a ‘Rushdie star’; many even would not have an iota of knowledge of the level of blasphemy that had occurred and the consequential repercussions that had followed for many societies worldwide. Modern modes of communication may have given us faster and cheaper mediums, but it also has given people more easy opportunities to readily abuse our ‘freedom of speech and expression’, vile that has become more deadly with the technological empowerment.  

If ‘freedom of speech’ was a limitless right, would the same champions of free expression dare to speak against the Armenian massacre in France or speak against the Jewish Holocaust elsewhere? Or was the ‘freedom of speech’ right to be used by these ‘Lie-berals’ in exclusivity against a particular religion only. Incidentally in the recent past when the state barred Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha from the Srinagar airport and send him back by the next available flight, or when US radio journalist David Barsamian was denied entry to India, it was an open infringement on their right to travel and free speech yet none of these ‘liberal’ champions raised a concern against this act. No ‘Intellectual’ protects, no scripted fiery TV debates were held for such ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of travel’ denial. Surely ‘free speech’ by the ‘Rushdie’esque’ champions was considered as a right of the privileged few.  


We have not forgotten when Mumbai University banned ‘Such A Long Journe’y (1991) by Rohinton Mistry, after Aditya Thackeray, grandson of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had raised objections about it. And none of these ‘Lie-berals’ could muster courage to defend the ‘freedom of speech’ here. Why? Was it the fear of Shiv Sena or the absence of an Islam bashing opportunity for these Lie-berals? D.N Jha (eminent Indian historian and member of the Indian Council of Historical Research) received death threats over his book “Myth of the Holy Cow”, where he proved that beef, which is taboo for Hindus, was once a part of the ancient Indian diet and has not always been held sacred. He also dispelled the popular allegations that “Muslims introduced beef-eating to the Indian subcontinent”. A court in Hyderabad banned the book and not surprisingly the Saffron parties demanded his arrest. But no ‘Lie-berals’ were seen in TV studios blowing their ‘freedom of speech’ trumpet and no rights activists saw this as an ‘act savior’ opportunity. Why?  Did these personalities have no ‘Rushdie’esque’ star value and hence not worth defending? I will not point out to the fact that Dr Zakir Naik was denied entry to Canada and UK, a clear violation of free speech. He was probably indefensible because he belonged to a particular faith in India, hence Indian media had no use pretending to defend him; no TRP’s for such a defense. 

As I write this blog, there is news that a video link with Rushdie is going to take place. No problems in that as long as the decent limitations of freedom of expression are adhered to.  But if the discussion again is going to revolve around ‘Satanic Verses’ we shall see it nothing but as a ‘Satanic Intent’ to incite religious passion with utter disregard for mutual respect , tolerance and a clear disdain against the rights of communities to exist and believe respectfully.

Islam has a rich history of dissent and discussion. Question it as you may, criticize it but please don’t use this right for desecration and profanity. Blasphemy hurts badly, don’t use the ‘freedom of speech’ excuse to indulge in such debasement. 





24th January, 2012



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9 comments:

On January 25, 2012 at 12:55 AM , Vidyut said...

I respect your words and the questions. I will write an article in co-exploration rather than a rebuttal or reply, because these things are personal and public at once and arbitrariness only adds to the chaos.

Big respect for bringing these difficult to see views.

 
On January 25, 2012 at 10:32 PM , Naqshab said...

MashaAllah, thought provoking article.

 
On January 26, 2012 at 12:36 AM , Shivam Vij said...

"We have not forgotten when Mumbai University banned ‘Such A Long Journe’y (1991) by Rohinton Mistry, after Aditya Thackeray, grandson of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had raised objections about it. And none of these ‘Lie-berals’ could muster courage to defend the ‘freedom of speech’ here. Why? Was it the fear of Shiv Sena or the absence of an Islam bashing opportunity for these Lie-berals? D.N Jha (eminent Indian historian and member of the Indian Council of Historical Research) received death threats over his book “Myth of the Holy Cow”, where he proved that beef, which is taboo for Hindus, was once a part of the ancient Indian diet and has not always been held sacred. He also dispelled the popular allegations that “Muslims introduced beef-eating to the Indian subcontinent”. A court in Hyderabad banned the book and not surprisingly the Saffron parties demanded his arrest. But no ‘Lie-berals’ were seen in TV studios blowing their ‘freedom of speech’ trumpet and no rights activists saw this as an ‘act savior’ opportunity. Why?"

Saadut that is simply not true. Many liberals on TV and elsewhere have protested all of these incidents and DN Jha, unlike Rushdie and MF Husain, hasn't been exiled. Thing about Hindutva-endorsed censorship is that they have forever quoted the example of the banning of Satanic Verses to justify their censorship. So now for anyone to justify censorship of Satanic Verses and exiling of Rushdie with threats of violence, is, to say the least, ironic.

 
On January 26, 2012 at 12:56 AM , Shivam Vij said...

"Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ has never been acknowledged as his best book by literary critics, but it gave him more fame than any other of his writings, only because of his open blasphemy against Islam."

That blasphemy is only alleged, mostly by those who haven't read the book. Here's someone who has read the book, and he argues why there was no blasphemy: http://kafila.org/2012/01/18/satanic-versus-moronic-how-salman-rushdie-lost-the-up-election/

 
On January 26, 2012 at 1:00 AM , Shivam Vij said...

You write: "Or was the ‘freedom of speech’ right to be used by these ‘Lie-berals’ in exclusivity against a particular religion only. Incidentally in the recent past when the state barred Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha from the Srinagar airport and send him back by the next available flight, or when US radio journalist David Barsamian was denied entry to India, it was an open infringement on their right to travel and free speech yet none of these ‘liberal’ champions raised a concern against this act. No ‘Intellectual’ protects, no scripted fiery TV debates were held for such ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of travel’ denial. Surely ‘free speech’ by the ‘Rushdie’esque’ champions was considered as a right of the privileged few. "

Surely, you can't say "none". See Kafila archives to fine an exception in me? I could find you a few others too.

 
On January 26, 2012 at 12:33 PM , Saadut said...

Shivam ,

Your assertion that Rushdie was exiled is wrong. He was born outside India, lives in UK and has been travelling to India over all these years. M.F Hussain was on the contrary born in India, lived here, then vandalized and banished. Irony is that he was not even allowed to be buried in India.
‘Such A Long Journey’ had nothing to do with blasphemy or any religion but was still taken off Mumbai University (In a democratic India) at the insistence of a known extremist politicians, grandson. And the in-power state government could do nothing about it, could not restore the book to its rightful place. What did the studio screaming ‘rights champions’ do about it? Assume silence of course (with the exception of minor footage given to it in one evening’s news). “Myth of the Holy Cow” was a historical account of India unlike ‘Satanic Verses’ (which was promoted as fiction but in fact had been plotted over the lives of Prophet SAW and his companions), yet D.N Jha’s work was banned in India and the eminent professor faced likely persecution in a democratic country. Contrary to this Rushdie has been coming to India all these years, attended many events and ‘lie-berals’ seem in him their redemption messiah, which in fact is nothing but their taking aims at Islam and religious sensibilities.

 
On January 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM , Saadut said...

Shivam you say "That blasphemy is only alleged"
Your and the writers assertion is absolutely wrong. For understanding the blasphemy in ‘Satanic Verses’ you need to read it, with a full understanding of Quran and the later years European bias against Islam. I have read both and I know the extreme content of blasphemy that is in these ‘Satanic Verses’, but for allowing you neutrality of views I will instead reproduce some excerpts of Rafiq Zakaria’s letter to Salman Rusdie ((published in Illustrated Weekly Of India on October 23, 1988) which Rushdie has not relied till date.

(The full link to that letter is at the bottom of the excerpt)
“I am not one of those, who has not read your book. I have, and am interested to know from you the replies to some questions, as I feel they may help me to understand you better and also for you to plead your case more effectively. We, in India. are ever so worried about communal violence, which erupts on the slightest pretext, we cannot allow a writer, whatever be his motive, to provoke it.
You say in your letter to Mr Gandhi that you ‘strongly deny’ that your book is ‘a direct attack on Islam’. Further, that ‘the section of the book in question…. deals with a prophet who is not called Muhammad’.
I have read your book. Like you, I have also been a student of Islam. Your statements, therefore, surprise me. I feel you are going back on your own objective just to get the ban lifted. Maybe I am wrong. I will, therefore, appreciate if you will clarify your position by replying openly to the following questions:
1. What is the significance of the title of your book The Satanic Verses? Has it not some historical connection? Do not the verses which refer to the three goddesses, condemned as Satanic and repudiated by Allah, the same as your reference to them in your novel? Your words are so clear that no other inference seems possible: “These verses are banished from the true recitation, al-qur’an. New verses are thundered in their place.” “Shall He have daughters and you sons?” Mahound recites. “That would be a fine division!” “These are but names you have dreamed of, you and your fathers. Allah vests no authority in them.”
2. Is Jahilia not the same word as used in Muslim annals for “the era of ignorance”—Jahilia means ignorance—the era before the advent of Islam? Your description is so apt:
“The city of Jahilia is built entirely of sand, its structures formed of the desert whence it rises. It is a sight to wonder at: walled, four-gated, the whole of it a miracle worked by its citizens, who have learned the trick of transforming the fine white dune-sand of those forsaken parts—the very stuff of inconstancy—the quintessence of unsettlement, shifting, treachery, lack-of-form—and have turned it, by alchemy, into the fabric of their newly invented permanence. These people are a mere three or four generations removed from their nomadic past, when they were as rootless as the dunes, or rather rooted in the knowledge that the journeying itself was home.”
3. Whom had you in mind when you delineated the character of Mahound? Do your descriptions of his various activities not fit those of the Prophet Muhammad? I can quote passage after passage to show the coincidence, but it will be too lengthy; moreover most of them are so offensive that I shudder to reproduce them.
4. From where have you drawn the names of the three goddesses: Lat, Uzza and Manat? They are certainly not the products of your imagination? No one reading about them in your book can think otherwise.

(continued in next comment)

 
On January 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM , Saadut said...

(continued)

5. Is Hamza not the same as Prophet Muhammad’s uncle of the same name? And are his encounters with Hind, as depicted by you, not representative of what happened in the early annals of Islam?
6. Is Abu Simbel in your novel not a reflection of Abu Sufiyan, the inveterate enemy of the Prophet? And Hind, whom you characterise so graphically, not his wife?
7. Is Salman—your namesake—called Persian in your book, not the same as Salman Farsi, a companion of the Prophet?
8. Is Bilal not the first Muezzin of Islam, whom you describe as “the slave Bilal, the one Mahound freed, an enormous black monster, this one, with a voice to match his voice”?
9. Is Zamzam, referred to in your novel, not the well held sacred by Muslims? Here is your description: “The city’s water comes from underground streams and springs…, next to the House of the Black Stone.”
10. Does the description of the “Black Stone” in your novel not fit that of Ka’aba? Here are your words: “The graves of Ismail and his mother Hagar the Egyptian lie by the north-west face of the House of the Black Stone, in an enclosure surrounded by a low wall.”
These are some of the coincidences; there are many others. You, unlike most authors, have not mentioned that the characters in your novels do not bear any resemblance to persons living or dead. Can you, with your hand on your heart, say that they really don’t resemble the characters and situations in the life of the Prophet of Islam. And if they do. what should the authorities do to control a likely occurrence which you as well as I know may disturb the tranquillity of the land.
I have not referred to your section on Ayesha; I found it rather confusing, where you have cleverly mixed fact with fiction. This does not apply, I feel, to your section on Mahound, which represents, to use your own words” the result of five years of work on Islam, which has been central to my life’. Apart from the Muslim politicians, whom you mention in your open letter to Mr Gandhi, you will be surprised that some of our best intellectuals-both writers and poets—have come out against you: they are J P Dixit, Nissim Ezekiel, Jean Kalgutkar, Vrinda Nabar, Vaskar Nandy, V Raman and Ashim Roy. In a letter to The Indian Post they refer to your statement that you knew Islam best and that was why you had talked about it and observe: ‘How does he ”talk”about this religion? Its founder is named Mahound. Rushdie has not invented this name. This was the name given to the Prophet Mohammed by his European detractors as a term of abuse (‘Ma’ from ‘Mahomet’ added to ‘hound’) and used frequently in various European eschatologies as a creature belonging to the lowest depths of Hell, as the Devil himself.’”

http://bargad.org/2012/01/23/rafiq-zakarias-letter-to-salman-rushdie-on-satanic-verses/

 
On January 26, 2012 at 12:47 PM , Saadut said...

Shivam about Gautam Navlakha

Gautaum Navlaka is a human rights champion and David Barsamian a radio journalist and not blasphemy accused (unlike Rushdie) yet no media outage happened in India on these events. Kafila mentioned it but in reality what percentage of Indian media is Kafila, does it reach a 1 or even a 0.00001 percent of India? How much of coverage was given to these events in the main media? None. Obviously false ‘nationalism’ far overweight’s the rights in these incidents, on the contrary Rushdie gets precedence on ALL India media for days together, because it is all about bashing Islam.

And how much of the ‘right championing’ ‘Lie-berals’ voiced any concern for revoking the deportation ban on Gautam or David? No voices were heard here.