Time to put controversialists in their place

Rushdie, who survived a chilling death threat in an era that was a lot more enlightened than the Middle Ages
The original ‘fatwa' man Salman Rushdie spent years in fear of the Iranians taking offence to his book, although India may take belated pride in being the first country to ban the Satanic Verses. Creative people whose work is in the public domain to be relished and loved or hated face a challenge that is quite different. It must, however, be said opprobrium has been there right through history with some even paying for it with their lives in those imperial times when 'off with his head' seemed a simple enough idea put forth by the ruler about the ruled.
Rushdie, who survived a chilling death threat in an era that was a lot more enlightened than the Middle Ages, has experienced it a bit more than others. Even he finds the present atmosphere quite stifling and he also invented a term for it; he calls it 'Indian offendedness.' We are seeing more and more of this 'offendedness' these days when you can't open a newspaper or switch on a news channel without hearing someone slating someone else.
Modern India is dealing with invectives every day. It appears to be the latest fad. It is not only the politicians who have descended to this non-humorous stream of barbs, be it 'hawabaazi' or its retort 'hawalabaazi' or the 'Take in India.' The highest in the land are not impervious to this trend, which just means that the public discourse is coarser than ever. Again, it is not that we are shrinking violets who will be felled by hearing a barb but it does seem that the lowest common denominator has somehow moved even further down than where it used to be.
Not everyone has the equanimity of an A.R. Rahman in replying quite poetically to a fatwa as he did a couple of days ago when some vague fatwa came his way for his composing the music for an Iranian film on the Prophet Muhammad. A.R.R. wrote thus, — “What, and if, I had the good fortune of facing Allah, and He were to ask me on Judgement Day: ‘I gave you faith, talent, money, fame and health... why did you not do music for my beloved Muhammad (Peace be upon him) film? A film whose intention is to unite humanity, clear misconceptions and spread my message that life is kindness, about uplifting the poor, and living in the service of humanity and not mercilessly killing innocents in my name.”
Touche! Very few could have put it better when challenged by some worthy who thought here was nuisance value at its best — just stir the pot and see what happens, even if a fatwa is not an edict and is not binding on anyone and it can be countered by another fatwa if one goes by a Muslim scholar's word on this. The mullah who did this, probably for a lark, are not the only ones. Everyone is doing it today. It has become quite the fashion to put the oar in troubled waters, be it the culture minister dragging the revered former President Dr Kalam into a debate on patriotism or the worthies trying to whip up a controversy over Rajinikanth's rumoured association with a movie on Tipu Sultan, the original ‘rocket man’ of these parts.
At no time in life had we had to flip back into history to study its characters as now when every name of yore is springing up in one controversy or the other. It has been instructive to read up on Aurangzeb, Tipu sultan — even I had to get over my Thanjavur prejudice against the man because he pillaged a place I lived in when I was very young — and Tulsidas too as he translated the Ramayan as Ramcharitmanas and the Brahmins boycotted him and so he had to live outside his town. Perhaps, it is time all liberal minded people put all controversialists in their place. They are simply wasting our time.
( Source : deccan chronicle )
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