“A culture of offendedness”

Alternative title: Insults, dissent, sentiments etc.

Mumbai Mirror carried an interesting story a couple of days back. A man affiliated with an NGO saw a girl from Pakistan sporting a tattoo on her back. The phrase was in Urdu – a simple “thank you” to God, and supposedly from the Koran. His “sentiments” were “hurt”, and so he went and complained about it to his mother. This lady came to the spot with her own gal squad and started slapping the poor girl till the mall (that’s where all this happened) manager called the cops. And this is what followed

According to Bangur Nagar police, Saba apologised profusely and said she hadn’t known that the tattoo would hurt anybody’s sentiments.

Danaji Nalavde, inspector in-charge of crime at the police station, said, “There was nothing objectionable about the tattoo and there are no legal provisions under which we could have booked her. But since the group of people were agitated we asked Saba to give her statement in writing.”

In her statement Saba said she was sorry and that she would get the tattoo removed through laser surgery in the next three days. Nevertheless, the cops referred the matter to legal experts to see if they could book Saba for hurting religious sentiments or under any other legal provision.

The cops didn’t throw the “social worker”‘s mother in jail on charges of assault, but instead asked the victim to give an apology in writing so that the “agitated” people could be placated. And to top it all, they took pains to see if she could be thrown in jail on charges of hurting religious sentiments. I sincerely hope someone dishes out similar treatment to the assailants – they deserve it. And shame on the Mumbai police for siding with the crooks on the matter.

Salman Rushdie gave an interview recently where he talked about a “culture of offendedness” that’s prevalent today-

The Ayatollah is long dead and Rushdie has stopped worrying about his safety, although the fatwa has never been withdrawn. On Sunday night, he questioned the accuracy of the Quran, used profanity when referring to Islamic leaders and bragged about once wearing a T-shirt that read, “Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime.”

But he believes that “a culture of offendedness,” in which any religious criticism is regarded as insensitive or even blasphemous, has intimidated others. Last year, Rushdie strongly criticized his own publisher, Random House, Inc., for pulling Sherry Jones’ “The Jewel of Medina” over fears that the novel would set off violence. (“The Jewel of Medina,” about one of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, was released by Beaufort Books without major incident).

Calling himself an early victim of attempted censorship, Rushdie likened his place in history to a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, “The Birds.” He recalled a scene in which Tippi Hedren spotted a crow outside her window. Hedren paid little attention until she noticed hundreds more had arrived.

“I think I was the first crow,” Rushdie said.

Geert Wilders will be prosecuted, the BBC reports. The judges in Netherlands don’t think freedom of speech is an absolute right. They have great company. Osama doesn’t think that either. Nor does the Canadian Human Rights Commission-

Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders made a controversial film last year equating Islam with violence and has likened the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

[…]

“In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to… draw a clear line,” the court in Amsterdam said.

Mr Wilders said the judgement was an “attack on the freedom of expression”.

“Participation in the public debate has become a dangerous activity. If you give your opinion, you risk being prosecuted,” he said.

[…]

“The court also considers appropriate criminal prosecution for insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and Nazism made by Wilders,” it added.

[…]

Gerard Spong, a prominent lawyer who pushed for Mr Wilders’s prosecution, welcomed the court’s decision.

“This is a happy day for all followers of Islam who do not want to be tossed on the garbage dump of Nazism,” he told reporters.

Why is Nazism a rubbish dump? The holocaust didn’t happen, remember? Ask Ahmadinejad if you don’t believe me. And if we subtract the “imagined” atrocities from it, Nazism is plain old fascism/ nationalist socialism, and every government in the world practices it. Don’t know why Spong resents the comparison.

The Chinese government isn’t pleased with Barack Obama. He criticizes communism, and the suppression of dissent, and people cannot be allowed to hear such ideas. So – we censor it

Once again, Xinhua included the passage in full in its English version, but the sentence was taken out of the Chinese translation.

Similar changes were made to versions of the speech that appeared on other websites based in China.

And websites were not the only media organisations that struggled to report some of the comments made by President Obama.

China Central Television, the country’s main broadcaster, aired the speech live with a simultaneous Chinese translation.

But when the translator got to the part where President Obama talked about facing down communism, her voice suddenly faded away.

The programme suddenly cut back to the studio, where an off-guard presenter had to quickly ask a guest a question.

This paragraph from a government mouthpiece represents the entire idea-

“Given the popular American eagerness for a break from the Bush years, many wonder, or worry to be precise, whether the new president would ignore the hard-earned progress in bilateral ties.”

What is more important? Ties with a police state and upcoming superpower, or the idea of liberty. The ties, naturally. That’s why America is trying its best to emulate China when it comes to crushing liberty.

An Australian author has been jailed in Thailand for “insulting the monarchy.” The law under which he was convicted exists because “under Thailand’s constitution the king was above politics and could not publicly defend himself from personal attacks.” For whatever it is worth, the present king doesn’t support the law.

I was searching for a sound-bite where someone from the government had said something about the differences between “Western values” and Eastern ones; I think I read something like that very recently. Didn’t find it, but found this 1992 article by Kishore Mahbubani. Makes good reading.

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Comments

  • undercoverindian  On January 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    The lady and her cohorts who assaulted the lady with tattoo should have been put in jail and assaulted until all of their fragile sentiments were broken completely and forever.

    In this country people seem to have just too much of sentiments which are ready to be hurt on drop of hat.

  • you12  On January 22, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Nothing wrong with the tattoo incident.Don’t the “people” get what they want in a democracy? Sure a girl got beat up and there is also the erosion of her civil liberties and a threat on her life but arbitrary concepts like religious sentiments which are softer than even a bubble MUST be protected.

    http://www.nriol.com/content/articles/article64.asp

    Here is an article with a similar east VS west tone from the mediamade business leader of the country.Its full of ideological clouds and naiveness ,complete misrepresentation of reality and a reference to Aristotle.

    Frighteningly its written by a man who has a god like stature in India’s literate crowd. If he thinks like that than what does the rest think?

    I have always found the notion of Eastern values confusing and random.What exactly is “Eastern Values” anyway? Cultural Concepts of Marriage, family values,chastity are championed all around the world.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On January 22, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    like i keep saying… democracy isn’t for everyone. misinterpretation of religious books, misinterpretation of everything… it’s a matter of what’s “convenient” and the moral environment one’s raised in. some people interpret “freedom” in bizarre ways so “absolute freedom” might not be a very good idea. islamic fanatics get away with a lot of things in the name of freedom.

  • you12  On January 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Absolute individual freedom means freedom for every human being not for any particular group.

    Censorship can’t work but as long as my individual rights are not harmed you can do whatever the hell you want.

    You can’t hit me or stop my movement or speech but you can burn my effigies, write disrespectful nonsense about me stop trading with me etc.

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On January 22, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    hmm.. the freedom to do anything i want?
    but could it be possible that 2 or more people think alike?
    and doesn’t human beings(2 or more) constitute a group?
    so if the current day iranian public demand it’s govt. to wipe out the state of israel, would that be justifiable because they were being democratic or acting on free will?
    rag heads and skin heads too act on free will so would the govt. be wrong in prosecuting them?

    i insist. absolute freedom isn’t for everyone. people(and the police) are just not smart(morally) enough to figure out what it means. shape there morale and everything else will follow.

    makes you wonder, what sort of back drop the man who got his sentiments hurt was raised in?

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 22, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    “the freedom to do anything i want?”
    Rights have a very precise definition – the right to life, property, free speech etc mean no one has the right to kill or imprison you, take away your wealth and property, or stop you from saying or doing anything that does not infringe on similar rights of others.

    A right to murder, rape, eat people alive, steal etc does not exist. So if Iran or some skin heads act in a manner that endangers the rights of others, such others have the right to self defense. If you kill, you have violated someone’s right to life, and therefore you have to face the consequences – imprisonment, or death. Like that.

  • pinks  On January 23, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Good blog. Nice range of topics – makes for an interesting reading!

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