• Feb 13, 2012

    Apropos your cover story, Who’s Afraid of Nobodaddies (Jan 30), Muslims may not like Rushdie but are indifferent to his coming or going. Nor do they pay any notice to declarations and fatwas. So why does the media play it up? Political parties too have to stop thinking that the mullahs represent the community. I also cannot understand the need for Outlook to publish an outdated photo of protest against Rushdie. Till you read the caption, it seems like an ongoing protest, like tensions are simmering when there are hardly any. If a long shot of the gathering had been taken, I am sure it would show the presence of just a handful. The media is making a mountain out of a molehill.


    Salim, Calcutta


    You credit Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari, no less, with the suggestion of having Rushdie on video conference which, of course, was subsequently not allowed. It seems the Congress continues to suffer from lack of uniformity in thinking and consistency in approach. After the video link too was cancelled at the last minute, that quintessential Congress loose cannon Digvijay Singh, when asked for his comments, supported the cancellation saying religious sentiments of a section of people must be respected (and literary freedom be damned). One recalls the same Singh a few years ago deploring protests against M.F. Husain on grounds of creative freedom.


    Sandip K. Pitty, on e-mail


    A sensible piece, exposing Congress’s undeclared war on honesty and probity in public life in India.


    Tushar Patel, Jamnagar


    The issue is not of protests from Deoband. They are entitled to make fools of themselves. This is also not about the few intolerant bigots who take to violent action; they are numerically too inferior. The crime here is that a ruling party has delivered a death threat of sorts to a pio through its state government.


    A. Abhi, Mumbai


    Blame the government. An issue which could have been handled sensitively was blown out of all proportion and allowed to overshadow a fine literary event.


    Shamael Jafri, Lakhimpur Kheri


    Where were all the liberal writers when goons attacked M.F. Husain’s shows and drove him out of India? The truth is that India is divided right down the middle and there is really no liberal, non-partisan media or a liberal people as such.


    Haruncts, on e-mail


    First, they banned the book. Now, they have banned Rushdie under pressure from the votebanks. Election years!


    A.K. Ghai, Mumbai


    Instead of protesting M.F. Husain’s paintings of naked Hindu goddesses, people could have exercised their own right to artistic freedom and painted him naked (with a drawing board beside him)—like a certain person from Bihar did.


    Sangeetha, Chennai


    It’s inevitable that votebank politics will turn India into a Saudi Arabia-like Wahabi fundamentalist state, especially when the all-powerful Congress is at the wheel. In today’s India, the so-called communal Saffron Party paradoxically seems the most secular...comparatively, of course.


    Narayan, Zurich


    Preventing Rushdie’s appearance at the Jaipur Litfest was undoubtedly a shameless attempt by a nervous Congress regime in Rajasthan to appease the ‘mullah brigade’. The party is courting the Muslim vote in a key poll-bound state, by pandering to some dangerous Islamic segments. This unbridled appeasement of radical elements is more dangerous than the threats from Maoism.


    K.V. Raghuram, Wayanad


    If the government fails to provide proper security to a single PIO, how then can it vouch for the safety of the majority? It is only the cleric-politician axis that plays such dirty games. The average Muslim could not be bothered about protesting Rushdie’s visit.


    Somasundaram, Chennai


    There is something more than what meets the eye in the entire Rushdie affair. Ironic as it might sound, the presence of someone like Richard Dawkins at the Jaipur fest didn’t raise any eyebrows! Dawkins’s rational criticism of religion, though absolute, is of course different from Rushdie’s ridicule of Islam. But then India hosted someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali a year back. Her criticism of Prophet Mohammed in explicit terms regarding morality and personality pales Rushdie’s magical-realist exertions. It is not that Rushdie has faced protests every time he has visited India: he has come to the country five times since Khomeini’s fatwa. Blame it on the mini parliamentary elections but the bottomline is that religious fundamentalism in India is increasing. India is on the slow path to becoming a religious state, the theo-democracy of Maulana Maududi. The clash of civilisations with undertones of religious identities and shameless surrender by secular authority will make the democracy in India weaker. In Husain and Rushdie’s penchant for controversy lies the creative freedom of an artist. You cannot call them mere publicity-seekers. The Rushdie controversy started some seven years after he became the first Indian-born writer to win the Booker. He was also the first Indian-born writer to win the Prix du Meilleur Livre four years before the fatwa. Likewise, it took 26 years for Husain’s painting of Hindu goddesses in the nude to stir the fundamentalists; he had already become the Picasso of India and the first Indian national (by birth and right) to win the Golden Bear award.


    Anonymous, on e-mail


    Can anyone in India stand up and tell all those protesters that gods, saints and prophets of no religion require human intervention to protect them. However, the conduct of the government, at the Centre and in Rajasthan, in this case, was nothing short of shameful.


    Navien K. Batta, Muscat


    Wondering if the Mullahdom of Qatar will extend Rushdie the same hospitality (grant Qatari nationality, that is) it did to Husain?


    Jaleel Khan, Lucknow


    Is being deliberately abusive of someone else’s sensibilities really freedom of speech? That said, its compulsions in UP made the Congress capitulate to Muslim protesters, but methinks Rushdie will visit again, after the elections, and the Congress will welcome him with open arms, in the name of freedom of expression!


    A.K. Bundi, on e-mail



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