My blog on Charlie Hebdo shootings, in DNA on 8th January 2015
Is the price of offending nutcases, death? How far do you hold your silence? Who all are you supposed to be scared of? Can you really blaspheme against a religion you don’t follow? If you don’t believe in God, or you don’t believe in the story of the origin of the universe in terms of religious reference points, if you don’t believe in a ‘One God’ theory and are joyfully polytheistic, if you like beef, if you laugh at idols, if you question the Virgin Birth, if you don’t believe that Prophet Mohammed is the last prophet— are you committing blasphemy or going against religious beliefs? What if they are not your religious beliefs? Are you supposed to follow the religious dogma of religions you don’t follow? And why?
There is this extreme religious fundamentalist arrogance that looks at the world and expects it to be reordered as per the dictates of someone’s interpretation of a ‘holy book’. And the reason the term holy book is in quotes is that there is no one holy book for all the people, and there never will. Every time, we give in to any section of population whose sentiments are ‘hurt’ by some depiction or the other, we are not just giving up on the essence of religion, but the essence of a Secular Democratic Republic. The job of the State is not to assuage offended egos, and self appointed guardians of morality, religion and God, but to protect the rights of the individual whose right to express and expression is threatened.
Some of the illustrations in Charlie Hebdo
The ruling against the representation of the Prophet was to prevent idolatry (which is considered to be taboo in Islam). However, when people, who are neither followers ofIslam nor of any religion, are killed by terrorists for physically depicting the Prophet, this is the most primitive form of idolatry behaviour possible. A human sacrifice to an angry God. No God, no religion asked for this. Self appointed guardians of religion, who are possibly borderline psychopaths, are setting the agenda and expect the rest of the universe to follow out of fear.
Expecting people who do not follow a faith to follow the taboos of a faith is not just nonsensical, it also interferes with other people’s freedom to religion of their choice. I have been hearing voices on social media, op-ed pieces in respected newspapers on how restraint is needed in expression. This piece from the Financial Times especially hit hard–
Financial Times later changed this to a version that did not include the word stupid. Actually, Charlie Hebdo is not being stupid. They are exercising their freedoms.
There was an inexplicable quote by a woman I really admired as a school girl, Kiran Bedi –
Why provoke is a good question but maybe a better question is why do some people get provoked while most of the world doesn’t. And, why are we supposed to give up our freedoms for these whiny, attention grabbing types? And how long do we live in fear, and for what all?
We live in a world where anything can cause offense. The fact that you eat meat can cause offense to a vegetarian; the fact that you as a woman demand control on your body may cause offense to an orthodox religious type; the fact that you interpret the scriptures can cause offense to those who believe in a comic book version of the religion. There is no end to those who get offended and throw a hissy fit that says ‘pay attention to me and my views, I am important’.
Every time we give in to buy peace, we forget one thing – peace cannot be purchased. And peace purchased to assuage the anger of a psychopath carrying a gun, is temporary fragile peace. You will do something else tomorrow to offend him and cause him to raise the gun again. This is not about religion. This is about domination of all spaces in society and making them comply with a twisted vision of reality.
It needs to stop now. Peshawar and Paris are the clarion calls to stop appeasing bigots of all shades. And, finally I will end with a quote attributed to Charab – the cartoonist who was murdered yesterday by terrorists-
“I am not afraid of retaliation. I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.”