Saturday, February 04, 2006

Taunting and Terrorism

When we relive our childhoods through the eyes of adults, we laugh at the silly things we did, we laugh about the stupid fights we had, and we even laugh about the mean little tricks we played. Children, how much ever one may love those whom s/he knows, are the cruellest of all human beings. With the same curiosity that they touch a flame to see what it can do, they needle other children at their most vulnerable points. The barbs of childhood brand such a memory, as indelible as that of the flame when one first touches it. The taunts of childhood and the nascent feelings of vengeance, hatred and revenge, sown in that fertile, eager mind are never forgotten. TAUNTING.

That's what I find the most potent weapon of mass destruction. I hadn't touched a blog for about two years, because the beauty of handwriting is something I feel can never be replaced by the keyboard. But something I read in the Financial Times today made me decide to find a quicker, more immediate outlet...something not just for me, but for everyone to read and share and comment on. I'm talking about the "blasphemous cartoons" - those of the Prophet Mohammad, that appeared in the Jyllands-Posten and were then splashed across all the media. The result? Danish flags being burnt all over the world. My first reaction when I saw pictures of a flag being burnt, splashed across the front page of the Financial Times, was horror. I'm Indian, and like every other Indian, I would rather see anything than my flag burnt. I cannot even think about such a thing. What did all the millions of Danes looking at the Financial Times feel? What was it that caused a group of people to do something so awful?

I scoured the web for the blasphemous pictures, and finally found them, and a few more. I scanned them, trying to see the point of their publication, and the only question I was left with was "Why????" Why did those cartoons have to be published? What point did they have? What does the Prophet have to do with bombs or terrorism or anything else? I even came across some anti-Islamic, and certainly malicious, pictures and cartoons on websites, but not published in newspapers. I could put a link here if anyone wants to see them. My friend and I were looking at the pictures, and I could feel the sting as she, a Muslim, saw them.

Why is a particular religion being targeted and everything about it mocked and/or feared? Why is there provocation and then blame for retaliation? So, people want to dig for oil. They decide that the easiest way to do it is to neo-colonise. They need motivation for it, and they find motivation for it. But all that aside, how can it ever be justified that anyone's belief system is mocked at?

I'm not saying that the dictates of a religion should not be questioned. I've met Salman Rushdie, I've read him extensively, and I think he's genius, one of the most original, creative minds, ever. I don't think the murder of Theo van Gogh over his film, Submission, could ever ever be justified. I think it's unfair for Taslima Nasreen to have to flee from country to country. It's not the fact that I'm not Muslim that makes me say this. One of India's most celebrated artists, M.F. Hossain, once painted Hindu Goddesses in the nude, and there was a huge uproar over it. One may call it artistic experimentation, one may call it blasphemy, one may call it a publicity stunt. I think it's all right for people to condemn something if they want, but I would never support someone's life being endangered over something s/he has done for a reason, or from personal artistic motivation that comes with a reasonable knowledge of the subject. But taunting someone, needling someone, hitting where it hurts most, playing with the feelings of a large group of people...that can never be justified, can it?

Wars win nothing for anyone...when I see dismembered bodies, children shying away in fear from empty futures, people victimised and dismissed as "collateral damage" - which might as well refer to a cricket ball getting worn out in a test match between cricketing giants - I cry, as do most people who see them. When I see prisoners being humiliated and tortured, I cringe. When I see hostages pleading for their lives, I feel sick - when will this game end? Why is religion being used to manipulate it? Patriotism and Faith are personal - to prey on those aspects of a person's life is worse than to tear gashes into that person's flesh. They're intangible, inerasable scars. Scars that itch and make one want to hit back. The picture gets skewed when Salman Rushdie and a Danish newspaper out for a kick of its own are thrown into one big bolus of offensive material. Some things can be frowned upon, some things can be forgotten, some things can even be appreciated as lone voices speaking out with courage. But taunts...they only sour hearts and minds, plant hatred where neutrality used to be and dissect the world into its constituent, tiny, narrow minds.

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