Blood Over Burqa

via Courtesy: published on March 3, 2010

An Introduction of Sorts

Question : What’s common between Nicolas Sarkozy, Taslima Nasrin, free speech, and the Indian media?

Answer: The Burqa, the veil, the headscarf, the chador, the purdah, which is regarded by various people variously as “dignified,” “protective,” “secure,” and “comfortable.”

Those who hold any view that opposes these positive connotations are given a taste of what our media paints as “peaceful protest.” As one newspaper, an entire district and parts of another district tragically discovered.

Communal violence erupted in Shimoga and Hassan, in the Malnad region of Karnataka on Monday, resulting in the death of two persons in police firing.

Riotous incidents across the two cities were sparked off by protests by the minority community against a controversial article, by Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, published in a Kannada daily in its Sunday edition. Scores of people were injured in incidents of stabbing and large scale stone-throwing.

Most of us give 99% discount when we read words like “protest by members of a certain community,” “people of a certain community were upset and took out a march,” “clashes between two communities erupted,” “mobsters pelted stones,” “protesters commmitted arson,” “hooligans burnt tyres and public vehicles…” You can make up variations of this.  A couple of really brave media houses deign to use “minority community” but that’s usually veiled.

What happened in Shimoga

After many phone calls, research on the Internet, and collecting reports from the spot, here’s what happened in Shimoga.

On Sunday, Feb 28, 2010, Kannada Prabha, the Kannada daily–part of the New Indian Express group of newspapers–published a translation of an article that Taslima Nasrin had written.
On Monday, March 1, 2010, thousands of Muslim protesters gathered outside the Shimoga Wakf office on Sir M.Vishveshwaraya Road to protest against the piece.
What’s a protest march without some games? And so, en route, the Musical Stones game began. Those who couldn’t find stones started Fire my Faith,  His Car or Hers? and Blast the Bike! Post-siesta, it was time for Stab me Badd!
The entire Shimoga watched on in handclapping glee as these merry-makers kicked up a jolly ruckus in the main localities of the town including B H Road, the city bus stand, Shivappa Nayaka circle, Nehru road, Gandhi bazaar, and Kote road. The games culminated inside the Kannada Prabha office with Press the Press!

But you know what I’m really talking about. Islam is in danger! and all that.

The Provocative Piece and Aftermath

Now we wonder what was in that article that gave such a red (green?) twist to so many pink panties? As is the media’s wont, it didn’t mention the name of the newspaper nor the contents of the “offending” article. Here’s the Kannada translation of Taslima Nasrin’s original piece entitled, Let’s Think Again About the Burqa:

The original article authored by Taslima Nasrin is on the author’s website, available as a PDF. Aside: I’ve read both pieces and the translation is faithful to the original.

In a line, Nasrin’s piece severely criticizes the Burqa as a symbol of female oppression. But that’s a lesser crime compared to how she does it. She digs into the Koran and the Hadis to provide firsthand evidence to show how and why the Burqa is demeaning. Simultaneously, she “insults” the Prophet (PBUH, for my own safety):

Prophet Mohammed’s wife Ayesha was very beautiful. His friends were often found staring at her with fascination. This clearly upset the Prophet. So the Koran has an Ayat that says, “Oh friends of the prophet or holy men, never go to your friend’s house without an invitation. And if you do go, do not go and ask anything of their wives.” So it was to resist the greedy eyes of friends, disciples or male guests that the purdah system came into being. Later it was extended to all Muslim women.

And closes her piece with a battle cry of sorts:

Some 1,500 years ago, it was decided for one individual’s personal reasons that women should have purdah; since then, millions of Muslim women have had to suffer it. So many old customs have died a quiet death, but not purdah. Instead, of late, there has been a mad craze to revive it…What should women do? They should proclaim a war against the ill-treatment meted out to them. They should snatch back from the men their freedom and their rights; they should throw their headscarves out. They should take off their burqas and burn them.

I was unable to find out the date of this piece but a safe estimate (from my research on the Internet) is that it’s at least three years old. The fact that it escaped the attention of these Wakf worthies for so long is enough proof of the pathetic lives they lead. Equally, it’s a testimony to the time-tested tactic of their mob-mobilizing capacity and to run riot at will. We also wonder what the role, function, and goals of the Wakf Board are. The Central Wakf Council website lays it down as:

The Central Wakf Council as a Statutory Body was established in December, 1964 by the Government of India under the provision of Section 8A of Wakf Act, 1954 (now read as sub section 1 of the Section 9 of the Wakf Act, 1995) for the purpose of advising it on matters pertaining to working of the State Wakf Boards and proper administration of the Wakfs in the country. Wakf is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law. The Wakf Institutions deal with the religious, social and economic life of Muslims. They are not only supporting Mosques, Dargah etc. But many of them support Schools, Colleges, Hospitals and Musafirkhanas which are meant for social welfare.

As the Shimoga and other, similar incidents show, this is some amazing display of social welfare activities. For good measure, there’s some suspicion that the lead actor of Inglorious Basterds, who also happens to be India’s former Prime Minister, had a hand in scripting the riots by Muslims in Hassan. Of course, the media says it “spread” to Hassan, two hours away from Shimoga.

“Deve Gowda is playing his old tricks. However, this time the issue is not strong enough for him to exploit. He has instigated communal riots but he can’t topple our government,” said K S Eswarappa, the state BJP president.

Some Muslims took to the street in Hassan, Gowda’s home district and parliamentary constituency, to protest an article published in a Kannada newspaper that allegedly contained derogatory references to the prophet of Islam….a JD (S) corporater from Hassan — Mangalamma — who was seen in the middle of the action last afternoon, appeared to have sustained injuries on the thumb…Home Minister VS Acharya rubbished the suggestion that the riots had broken out due to the perceived slight to the prophet of Islam.

“They say a newspaper article caused the riots. If that was the case, the protesters would have protested in front of the newspaper’s office. Why did they go on a rampage and damage public property. Why was the violence only witnessed in Hassan and Shimoga, where Gowda’s political friend and former chief minister Bangarappa had pledged to support Gowda?”

To its credit, the cops managed to quell the Islamist riots in less than two days in two cities, which is no mean feat given the hugely hurt sentiments. Equally, full marks to Sindhu, the translator and Kannada Prabha for courageously publishing the piece. We wish it wouldn’t desist from publishing similar pieces in future. But no marks for the braindead cops who registered defamation cases against the paper. It simply means that they recognize the right of Islamist thugs to indulge in wanton vandalism on perceived insults to Islam.

Media Misinformation

Just a few years ago, Nasrin was a huge media celebrity: she was a self-described liberal, humanist, feminist, and chain-smoker, all stellar qualities, which are entirely in line with the media’s definition of female liberation. However, she didn’t attain near Goddesshood because she was overtly critical of Islam. Nobody in the media spoke in her favour when she was denied Visa extension or voiced anger when she was attacked by Islamic hooligans in Hyderabad. Nothing, not even the most liberal of liberal women can supercede Merciful Islam. But when a 95-year old Perverted Painter relinquishes his Indian citizenship, the media feels as if its testicles have been chopped off:

The enormity of the loss may take some time to sink in, but it’s now clear that MF Husain will no more remain Indian. “It’s all over. I’ve just completed the final formalities,” said the artist to an anguished Indian fan at the immigration department in Qatar’s capital, Doha…Husain was forced into exile in 2006 after some fundamentalist outfits launched a virulent attack on him for his portrayal of Hindu deities in the nude…As his number approached, Husain, dragging his weary legs, moved from the second row to the first. He then pulled out a small book from his pocket and started reading it. It was the Quran. He was probably praying for last-minute divine intervention.

And now when a mere translation of Nasrin’s piece unleashes an orgy of fundamentalist violence, not one media eminence has a word of at least crocodile-like condemnation. Worse, such is the power of media misinformation that Nasrin has herself issued this statement:

Nasreen said in a statement made available to PTI that she had never written an article for the Kannada Prabha newspaper in Karnataka…I suspect that it is a deliberate attempt to malign me and to misuse my writings to create disturbance in the society. I wish peace will prevail…The appearance of the article is atrocious. In any of my writings I have never mentioned that Prophet Muhammad was against burkha. Therefore this is a distorted story..

If she truly believes what the media has reported–that she actually wrote the article in Kannada–it stands to reason that she’s right in issuing the denial but it also stands to reason that the media is the author of this mischief. And lo and behold! Ever since her denial, the papers have gone on an overdrive printing it, yet another attempt at turning their sorry faces away from the truth. Turdesai has done even better on Twitter.

the maulvi and the temple priest who incite mobs are not men of religion but agents of violence. both must be shunned.

Without bothering to educate his poor readers on which temple priest has incited mobs so far. While a certain Vishnu Som calls the Swiss Minaret ban a “fundamental threat to Indian Muslims,” Turdesai spins it with greater sophistication over a series of Tweets, which draw a neat symmetery between protests over Hussain’s paintings and Islamic thuggery:

those who protest against husain paintings and who target taslima’s article are two sides of same coin. coin of intolerance.

freedom of expression is not an absolute, it comes with responsibility. but violence is not the answer.

does ‘hurt to religious sentiment’ override freedom of expression? and who will decide when religious sentiments are hurt? the mob?

my stand is rule of law is supreme. freedom of expression is not an unfettered right, neither is mob violence acceptable.

Yet, we all know what “stand” his channel took on the Danish Cartoons affair. Rule of law. Responsibility. Even better is this singular Tweet from Turdesai’s better half:

artistic representations of gods,goddesses not a sin in Hinduism. In islam representations of Prophet are banned.

No holds barred. Beyond comment. But I’m getting ahead of myself. These tweets set the perfect tone for masturbatory editorials about being “sensitive to minority feelings,” “for every Mullah there’s a sadhu/temple priest,” “Hindus had it coming,” and so on. I had to indulge in this tiresome exercise of media duplicity to underscore, yet again, the kind of poison we’re repeatedly fed with.

The media has shorn itself of even the last ounce of accountability, decency, and even plain honesty.

Nothing else explains this kind of brazening out even the vilest form of assault on free speech. Over the years, the media has shown that it isn’t really interested in supporting freedom of expression in a democracy. It is committed to protecting the Islamists’ “freedom” to indulge in any act of vandalism. Quite obviously, for it has replaced its inhouse style guide/reporting guidelines with the Koran, Hadis and the Congress party’s Constitution.

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