Wimps

That’s what they are – the Indian media. Its been three days since the “secular” communist government of West Bengal arrested (and then released on bail) the editor and publisher of “The Statesman” because of “Muslim anger,” and barring very very very few exceptions, the whole Indian media is absolutely silent – as if nothing has happened at all. 20 people barged into a bar, and the Hindu Taliban is born; 4000 people riot in Calcutta and everyone behaves as if nothing has happened. Why is the Indian media silent?

Some decent “Indian” coverage from-

Johann Hari, the man whose article made the mob go crazy for its Prophet, says he stands by his article-

A religious idea is just an idea somebody had a long time ago, and claimed to have received from God. It does not have a different status to other ideas; it is not surrounded by an electric fence none of us can pass.

That’s why I wrote: “All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him. I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.”

An Indian newspaper called The Statesman – one of the oldest and most venerable dailies in the country – thought this accorded with the rich Indian tradition of secularism, and reprinted the article. That night, four thousand Islamic fundamentalists began to riot outside their offices, calling for me, the editor, and the publisher to be arrested – or worse. They brought Central Calcutta to a standstill. A typical supporter of the riots, Abdus Subhan, said he was “prepared to lay down his life, if necessary, to protect the honour of the Prophet” and I should be sent “to hell if he chooses not to respect any religion or religious symbol? He has no liberty to vilify or blaspheme any religion or its icons on grounds of freedom of speech.”

Then, two days ago, the editor and publisher were indeed arrested. They have been charged – in the world’s largest democracy, with a constitution supposedly guaranteeing a right to free speech – with “deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings”. I am told I too will be arrested if I go to Calcutta.

The foreign media has covered it pretty decently (see my original post) and this is from The Telegraph (Britain)-

Religious leaders – often self-appointed – are easily outraged and mobs easily incited into action that sees them torch public transport, block crucial nerve centres of already chaotic traffic systems and even bring about total city shutdowns (locally called bandhs).

But does that mean bowing before the diktats of a handful of fundamentalists at the cost of curbing free speech?

[...]

This was the first time that an editor of a respected daily was arrested for “outraging religious feelings”, which incidentally is an offence under the Indian Penal Code.

When I called The Statesman, they did not seem very keen to discuss the matter and pointed me to their and the Independent’s website.

But a former colleague at a senior editorial position of another city English daily (who wished not to be named) provided some insight. Despite “liking the logic of the article”, he admitted that his paper (with a significantly higher circulation than The Statesman’s) would not have reproduced it because it was simply “not worth getting into the trouble”. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for press freedom. But when you know the possible outcome, it’s best to be practical and avoid these situations.”

He also assured me that very few if any at all among the protesters had bothered to read the original article or were expressing anger they genuinely felt. That job was left to the religious bosses who pulled their strings. The demonstrations had only started after local Urdu papers picked up the issue and urged fellow Muslims to take action over it. The result – protests, clashes with the police and the subsequent arrests of the Statesman duo.

“Practical.” Figures. I am waiting to see what MJ Akbar’s take on the issue is – in tomorrow’s Times of India is – if he bothers to touch it. The next time an Indian newspaper or television channel editor talks about “the freedom of the press,” spit on his face.

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Comments

  • Undercover Indian  On February 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Disgusting.

    I think the http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3767 article you linked to pretty much puts things in perspective.

    In India, some self proclaimed secularists have made it a fashion to let Muslims run amok with anything as they are “minority” but if anybody from majority even happens to ask few questions which can supposedly affront the ever so sensitive Muslims, then all the hell breaks lose.

    A case in point in Dr Zakir Naik, a Muslim daee (preacher) who is darling of Muslim world because he use “logic and arguments” to covert non-believers (hindus, Christians etc) into Islam. Watch some of his speeches which are nothing hate speeches and intolerance for others. He openly says that in a Islamic country, other faiths will not have rights to build their temples and desertion of Islam will be punishable by death (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMAZR8YIhxI&feature=related). I wonder why should he be allowed to have his freedom in India if he want to deny same freedom to others if he gets his chance.

    See his video where he says non-Muslims will not have equal human rights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jYUL7eBdHg

    It is disgusting that such people are openly allowed to spread their “faith” and are even given protection but a journalist re-producing an article is jailed.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On February 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    zakir naik is like any other islamic scholars out there: anti-west, anti-non-muslims etc etc. he often speaks in support of the taliban and the al-qaeda. TOI even posts his advertisements in full glitter. he talks about peace but is anything but that. he owns a channel named “peace tv” which is filled with hatred against other religions. all major DTH services refuse to air that channel anyway. and guess what he named his foundation?
    Islamic Research Foundation!!!

    but ZN is definitely a threat to india. he has huge fan following in india.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 15, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    “He openly says that in a Islamic country, other faiths will not have rights to build their temples and desertion of Islam will be punishable by death”
    As far as Islamic republics go, that is a fact. They accept no other god but Allah, and they don’t allow temples to be built, especially countries like Saudi Arabia. Then there is this small matter of killing the infidels. A few years back, a man in Afghanistan was sentenced to death because he gave up Islam to accept Christianity. The sentence was withdrawn after international outrage. His lawyers actually had to use the insanity plea at one time. Then Iran persecutes the Baha’i’s. You will find thousands of similar stories.

    The problem is – level-headed Muslims (the so-called moderates) are just as scared of the fanatics as everyone else is. Who wants to get stabbed or have his head chopped off by some nutcase? I don’t know how many of them exist, but they do exist.

    As I have said before, the only way this stupidity can be ended is for the civilized world to stand up and end their double standards on the issue of freedom of speech. If libel/ defamation is an offense that can be prosecuted, if England can have a law that punishes blasphemy against Christianity, then telling Muslims to accept criticism of the prophet reeks of hypocrisy.

    Throw the defamation laws into the dustbin. Then, when some Muslim threaten you and tell you to stop criticism, you can tell him to go jump in the Arabian sea, or simply f**k off.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On February 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    there’s no such thing as a moderate muslim. it’s either a religious muslim and an atheist-muslim. even a guy like SRK has said things after 26/11 that are commonly said by radical/religious muslims. some muslims, when they come to know about the reality of there religion simply become crazed atheists. but these are very rare. pro-israel muslims!!! ever come across them?

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Atheism implies a disbelief in God, and not being part of any religion. I don’t call myself an atheist-Hindu; plain atheist – no Hindu. Culture is a different aspect, though. Can’t change that very easily.

    When I talk of moderation, I refer to people who don’t go out on the roads and protest or attack or threaten. They are like our silent majority – the Hindus – people who go about their rituals, but are not fanatical like the saffron groups are. Our middle class is a typical example – people who have lives to lead – who don’t want to get caught up in a “jhamela” over anything.

    “pro-israel muslims!!! ever come across them?”
    Can’t say I have. There are Muslims however, who have moved away from the religion, or who don’t practice it as it should be (Jinnah loved booze, if I am not mistaken, for example; not something that the religion sanctions.)

    Read this post – good one; I think he’s an atheist.

    • Tauriq Moosa  On March 2, 2009 at 12:27 am

      Antitheist actually ;)

      • Aristotle The Geek  On March 2, 2009 at 2:33 am

        That is a stronger position, as compared to plain atheism. So its more than just personal belief? An active campaign against religion in general?

        • Tauriq Moosa  On March 3, 2009 at 5:33 am

          Yes – religion, but not religious people. The ideas of religion and the effects of it. It is the usual and is the same as atheism, except in that I hope very sincerely that none of the (metaphysical) claims of the monotheisms are true. The corollary: So far, I am glad they are not. :)

          It is quite a positive (i.e. happier) position to be in.

  • you12  On February 16, 2009 at 12:05 am

    There are a lot of moderate Muslims, but such people don’t have any sense of individualism and common sense hence they never come out.

    And there are a lot of religious people who realize the fraud that is religion and want to come out of it Especially Muslims,but just can’t because of their surroundings.

    The radicalization of Islam is an interesting case, a few years ago the Islamic world was on a path to modernism but with the Iranian Islamic revolution and the rise of OPEC things changed completely. Also the presence of American military and its support for dictators didn’t help things.

    I don’t think being pro Israeli is the same as being anti Muslim or anti religion. Israel has done a lot of nonsense and it should be condemned for it. Any type of violent action always leads to a violent reaction irrespective of the moral ground.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On February 16, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Atheism implies a disbelief in God, and not being part of any religion. I don’t call myself an atheist-Hindu; plain atheist – no Hindu. Culture is a different aspect, though. Can’t change that very easily.
    relating oneself to any religion seems crazy to me. even “atheism” sounds stupid. do you actually need to relate yourself to another religion just because you don’t believe in a celestial being. and it seems some people actually find it “kewl” to be called an atheist. the simple reason why i call myself an atheist-hindu is because my municipal papers say im an hindu. but whatever i try hard to claim to be, i’ll always be a cow worshiping hindu jackass from india to the world.

    as far as islam goes, “terms” might be a bad idea to describe them. words like “moderate muslim”, “peace” and “jannat” are not exactly what they mean here. it’s a fu@king ridicule really.

    did you follow any of zakir naiks debates on peace tv? there was one site that collected all his silly logic’s as a transcript. can’t find it now.

    http://satyameva-jayate.org/2006/12/06/dr-zakir-naik-and-224-or-is-it/

    this is longest running thread on him. i used to post there. it’s been more than a year but it’s still popular.
    http://www.topix.net/forum/us/TDHI3BHCHHP9AKJ7A/

  • you12  On February 18, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    The wimps often turn out to be fascists and totalitarians.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On February 18, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    That they do. Using force to gag people is one of the characteristics of fascism. Funny I missed that connection when it came to libel law till October 2008. But then – better late than never.

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