I am aghast at the orgy of violence let loose by vested interests in the name of protecting faith. Is this the liberal India we have visualised for ourselves? Or, is it true that liberalism finds fulfilment only when you comment against Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Can appeal to people to utilize their critical faculty rather than going mad at instigation by religious leaders and vested interests invite blasphemy?
As society progresses to organic unity where differentiations govern our existence, it is expected that people would be more liberal with their views and thought process. Any student of sociology would tell you that mechanical solidarity exists in societies which are at the initial stages of evolution, where everyone reacts in the same way. Has modern education failed to liberate our senses to discuss issues rather than bay for head of someone who in anger ended up being critical of Prophet Mohammad?
We would not go back to the ages where we considered critics to be our enemies deserving to be killed. This is not the India our forefathers must have visualised. We are into seventy five years of India’s independence. Have we not yet found a process to assimilate various faiths and make a strong national identity? Is our identity as Hindus or Muslims or Christians far superior than our identity as Indians?
I am sure that many would not know what the protest is about. They may have simply been told that Prophet Mohammad has been insulted by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. Whether there should be analysis of the words used and the context too, more so since the protests came well after ten days of the reported remark, is lost on the passion generated by those willing to weaken the country by creating permanent division based on Hindu-Muslim identities.
Did Nupur’s statement provide the flash point to various vested interests trying to radicalise Muslim youths. Investigations have shown that lot of preparations were made to create such riots and violence. These were definitely not spontaneous. Strange that these have happened even when she withdrew her statement and punished by the ruling BJP! After these, by any civilized standards, the matter should have come to rest.
I am no expert on Islam but what I have read about the Prophet, PBUH, it appears he was liberal in hearing criticisms and he would never allow his close associates to be harsh to people who would criticise. The Holy Koran prescribes intellectual discourse rather than physical elimination of those who criticise.
I understand that there are many verses in Koran that acknowledge that Prophets down the ages have been mocked at and abused by their contemporaries. However, no corporeal punishment has been prescribed for them. What has been prescribed is peaceful admonishment. This in effect means giving the critics intellectually sound arguments so that they may change their opinion.
In this case, it needs be underlined once again that Nupur has already withdrawn her statement. The BJP has reiterated its respect for all religions and has taken action against Nupur and another spokesperson Navin Jindal of the Delhi BJP unit. This at least shows that the hurt, if any, was not intentional. And, the prime-most question not being discussed is whether Islam allows punishment to those who have retracted their statements and apologised? I am told that words spoken in anger are of no consequences. Will any Maulana prove it wrong?
Most disturbing was the statement of a Bollywood celebrity who said that her apology was not from the heart. What does it mean? Does he mean to say that the criticism was from the heart? Words spoken in a debate in anger were taken out of context and spread by vested interests to vitiate the atmosphere. If Nupur or anyone had really meant that or if her statement was a part of design to insult the Prophet, she would not have withdrawn it.
Those who uphold the Constitution and trust the judiciary would wait for a judicial verdict. Nupur being a lawyer is extraordinarily empowered to argue her case. Can we wait for the decision of the court? Those who have put a reward on her head or issued fatwa that she be punished with death need to face the law now. This is a country governed by law and the Constitution. Those who have transgressed the line and promoted or instigated violence must be punished.
Will you ask for beheading of a mad man if he criticises your faith? Something spoken in anger and withdrawn later should also fall in that category. Her reaction as stated by her was to insinuation made by a co-panelist who ridiculed Lord Shiva in derogatory terms. Those who respect their own faiths need to respect faiths of others is the norm of civilized existence. Instead of asking people to maintain peace, even if there was provocation, radical elements tried to add fuel to the fire ignoring all norms of human decency.
The BJP cannot even in dream think of criticising any faith since its ideology of integral humanism champions respect for all. You cannot spew venom on others` faith and expect them to respect yours. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who believes in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family), would never allow anyone in the party or the Government to resort to insulting reverential figures of faith of others. This explains unprecedented action against Nupur and Navin Jindal.
Also, we must not ignore that every religion has elements of irrationality. If we all start attacking irrational elements in other religions without looking into such elements in one’s own, one would not be fair. That is why we should respect every faith. A rationalist would question such tendencies in all religions not limit himself to only those which are tolerant. But rationality also demands that respect the faith by which people live.
Sir Thomas Browne, an English essayist, said that religion begins where science ends. This is because, despite stupendous achievements Science has proved its limitations in explaining birth and death and the existence of soul. He advocated respects to all faiths. Religion tries to give answers to these questions and becomes the fountainhead of morality by which modern society exists. Therefore, the rights of both believers and non-believers need to be respected by one and all.
I would not like to question the faith of others since I don’t gain anything by doing so. If someone is happy doing right things such as abiding by the law because of religious beliefs too, it does not impact society negatively. Even in the most liberal of the countries, criticising someone’s faith has led to riots. This is because people want to settle the issues on the streets. Irrationality dominates senses.
In a law-abiding country like India, while everyone welcomes peaceful protests, nobody would champion violent protests. Burning vehicles, attacking innocent people and creating mayhem have consequences. If you take law in your hand, the long arm of the law will come holding you accountable.
Gullible and innocent people would suffer because they were instigated by vested interests to come on the streets and indulge in violence. It seems once you are a member of the mob, you lose your critical ability to think and discern. The competition was who was more Muslim than the other. Or, who was more intolerant than the other when the issue is Prophet Muhammad.
It is hoped that the rationalist would not try to impose his rationality on faith and believers would not try to impose his or her beliefs on others. This seems to be the best way to live together and hope for assimilation. And, there are provisions of law to take care if and when someone tries to use guile to convert others or take religions doctrines to defend violence.
Hindus and Muslims need to realise that they need to coexist peacefully. They both have a rich cultural past that needs to be guarded for India to become strong. It is not the buildings or religious texts but the ideology of tolerance that defines Indian ethos. We must all respect it. By criticising the Prophet, you cannot make Muslims leave their religion in the same way as by criticising Lord Shiva, you cannot make Hindus leave their faith. We all live by our faiths.
In a law-abiding country like India, while everyone welcomes peaceful protests, nobody would champion violent protests. Burning vehicles, attacking innocent people and creating mayhem have consequences. If you take law in your hand, the long arm of the law will come holding you accountable. Gullible and innocent people would suffer because they were instigated by vested interests to come on the streets and indulge in violence. It seems once you are a member of the mob, you lose your critical ability to think and discern.