Age of Kali – Freedom to Insult and the Satanic Verses

What gets me the most about Indian secularism is it’s unwillingness to insult a religious belief that is blatantly unreasonable. That religion is sacrosanct and cannot be criticised or complained about.

A society cannot function on the whims of extremists. India is no different. I understand, it’s the land of a million gods. Everyone and their dog has one, but this means you cannot walk for tripping over someone’s beliefs and nor should it mean that these beliefs ever come into consideration.

And India’s problem? It is conservative and, it’s willing to satiate death threats to people. It’s unwilling to improve itself because it is entrenched in the notion that there is some mystical value of indianity that we can

And it shows again with the Indian Government’s frankly cowardly position on Salman Rushdie. You cannot express yourself as a free nation or as a modern nation by banning books. Any book!

Instead what the Indian government has demonstrated is a core weakness. A fragility to threats. That the belief of a few anti-progressive muslims (Or Hindus!) can dictate government policy via threat and that free speech and expression can be stifled if someone threatens someone loudly enough.

And the ultimate irony? How many of the people bitching about The Satanic Verses have actually read the book? Do they even know what the blasphemous bit is?

It refers to the Prophet by a epiphet used during the crusades (Mahound), it calls the city of Mecca by a different name (Jahilia). A movie star becomes Gibreel (Gabriel) and Saladin becomes shaitan. The prostitutes in Jahilia have the same names as the prophet’s wives and it gives a muslim name (Ayesha) to an Indian girl whose pilgrimage ends in a deadly fashion.

The equivalent prophet is portrayed as not holy but opportunistic and that it is impossible to not break the rules created because they are so banal and pointless and it’s so easy to take offence. But what irks people the most? There is a single line in it. That calls attention to the sheer madness of Hindu and Muslim relationships. 

“Fact is, religious faith, which encodes the highest aspirations of human race, is now, in our country, the servant of lowest instincts, and God is the creature of evil” 

That’s it. That’s what caused such a big fuss. A couple of names and a statement that implies that God is a creature of evil. And in response? Muslims proved his statement right. India proved his statement right, that religion and the belief in God allows you to commit real evil. That the claim that you are aspiring to some greater truth comes at the cost of greater ignorance and a violent ignorance that not only ignores reality but also threatens it. The highest aspirations of the human race are replaced with a group of people who are so fanatically devoted to a single book that they do not really grasp anything else. That islamic faith has created a massive anti-science drift which is a far cry from it’s hey day. That a sizeable amount of muslims respond to any sort of criticism with either the rallying cry of Islamophobia (Which exists. However genuine criticism also exists too.) or with death threats and violence. That the ultimate true evil in the book is a bitter line about a man who regards the partition of India and Pakistan and the religious violence that ensued as a horrible manifestation of faith and a demonstration of everything that is wrong with religious belief. That 12.5 million people migrating simply because some people believed in one mythical being and another in a whole bunch of others is an exercise in madness. That even after that there are wounds so deep that it has spilled over as mass violence time and time again. That at no point did anyone stand to think about how utterly insane it was?

If any group of people says “If you don’t do as we say we will do x and it will be your fault”, and you cave in to them, then it is people attempting to subvert freedom of others solely for their own benefit.

The Indian government response is nothing short of stupid. It has ranged from “Well Rushdie isn’t that great an author anyway!” to “Indians always think foreign authors are so much more better! This is foreign author syndrome!” and “India never stopped him from entering the country”.

Show a spine. Religious extremists of all sorts should not be allowed to derail the idea of free speech.

And if you are Indian? I urge you to break the ban on Rushdie’s book and have a read of it yourself. See what the controversy is. Because I guarantee you this, the people bitching about Rushdie’s book haven’t read it. Because if they did they wouldn’t have complained. By complaining they have proven the entire point and necessity of the Satanic Verses. It showed us decades ago what we are coming to realise today. That religion without criticism turns into an insular mess of ignorance that actively and forcefully defends it’s ignorance. 


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