Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Taslima Nasreen vs MF Hussein

Taslima Nasreen vs MF Hussein
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is certain degree of similarity between Taslima Nasreen and MF Hussein; the first has hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslims the later the sentiments of the Hindus. What could have been a rallying point of hurt sentiments has turned out to be a case of mud slinging between the two dominant faiths in India.

The curious part in this is while there is sympathy for the Bangladeshi writer; the Indian Picasso is forced to go into exile. This Talibanisation of Indian society is taking place right in front our eyes and every one seems to be maintaining a conspiracy of silence towards it.

There is little to choose between those who protested on the streets of Kolkatta against Taslima Nasreen and those who have filed cases against MF Hussein. Both seem to belong to the same tribe though they may follow different faith.

The glaring thing in Hussein’s controversy is; Hinduism has started wearing the glasses of the Abramic faith. There is every effort being made to make it its mirror image.

Hussein is not the first person to take liberty with Hindusim. Indian history is littered with instances where Hindu god and goddess are being ‘depicted in objectionable terms’. The Jataka tales that forms the secondary source of Ancient Indian historiography cite many references of such contents.

Even today in the north Indian plains, particularly in the tribal villages, before the Holi festival, youths assemble for musical fest in the evenings and such late night revelries ends up singing words full of eroticism about Hindu god and goddess. Such oral traditions and local custom do not follow the city norm they are in vogue since time immemorial. There is nothing immoral about it.

Then why Hussein is being targeted? Is it because he has a Muslim sounding name? This is a difficult call but persons like MF Hussein cannot be cloaked into any faith. Such characters are above faith. They in fact are national property. The irony is instead of being acknowledged so some self styled Indian Talibans has made him person-non-grata.

It seems the 92 years old Indian celebrity is heading to become another Bhadur Shah Zafar who may bemoan for not getting two meters of land for burial in his own motherland.

There is no doubt that M F Hussein is one of the most respected painters of modern India. If we look at Hussein’s career there is hardly any anti- Hindu content in it. He is definitely is not an anti- Hindu campaigner The odd piece of work could be an aberration in his 90 years career and he should be condoned keeping the best of Hindu traditions.

However, if we analyse Taslima Nasreen, she is a rank anti- Muslim rabble-rouser. There is nothing in her work but anti-Islamic content. That’s the reason she finds favour from the Sangh Privar that has rolled out a red carpet for her.

The UP Chief Minister Ms Mayawati have called the controversy surrounding Taslima Nasreen as ‘Manuwadi’ conspiracy. She feels that the saffron brigade approve of the Bangladeshi writer because her anti Islamic writings messages their ego.

There is little doubt that Taslima Nasreen is an anti- Islam writer. To pedal the label of a feminist Muslim reform writer on her name would be a great misnomer. She should be treated as anti- Islam writer and there should be no qualms about it. Lord's world is big enough to accommodate those who follow the Islamic faith and for those who like to denigrate it.

The final point is whether India should shelter Taslima Nasreen or not? Keeping in mind the great Indian tradition India must give her all the comforts of life that she deserves with a rider she should no more become a public nuisance.

However the fact remains, Ms Nasreen and controversy cannot live separately. Not even two months passes she is back in the news. Earlier her statements in Bhopal hogged the limelight. She was seen spewing venom against Islam on a TV show. In Hyderabad she was showered with petals and flower vases. In Kolkotta it was a free for all.

There are some who argue that the freedom of expression of Taslima Nasreen should not be curtailed at the same time they advocate that freedom to protest against her should not be allowed. Well this is the hypocrisy of the worst kind that’s seen in this debate.

Every one is not a writer and can protest by pen alone, if she has a license to denigrate and abuse others too have the right to protest in whatever means and form is available. Who is at fault the abuser or the protestor? The hypocrisy is the fingers are pointed on the second.

So where do we end up. Taslima Nasreen is an asylum seeker in India. She does not enjoy the fundamental rights that average citizens of this country do. Even then she has been taking the liberty and offending a particular community and disturbing public peace. Will she be allowed to do so?

Well if I am the lord and master of this land I would say mend your ways Madam; else keep your suitcase packed.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

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