Religious Intolerance?

tolerance

If you ask religious people why religion is good, the first thing they tell you is that religion teaches tolerance.

What a shame! The reality is quite opposite.

Religious people think that it is their birthright to be offended. If Salman Rushdie writes a novel, they get offended.  When MF Hussain makes paintings or some newspaper publishes cartoons, they get hurt. Kamal Haasan makes a movie in which a terrorist is reading a holy book and people get hurt without even watching it. Did any of those protesting people really read the book or try and understanding Hussain’s art or made sense of the cartoons or Haasan’s movie with tolerance? The answer is a resounding No. Then where does the hurt come from? Is it genuine or assumed?

To come back to the point of tolerance, I am convinced that religion does not teach any tolerance at all. At least, we do not see any real examples of tolerance being practiced by any religious groups. What it really teaches is to burn, ban, threaten, torture, and exterminate anything and anyone they do not like. If their feelings are really hurt by some book, they can simply choose to not read it. For instance, what is written in some portions of some scriptures really offends my intelligence and feeling of secularism, and some of the things the religious leaders say and do really bothers me a lot and I do not agree with most of what they say. Most of the movies make fun of non-believers and none of them touches the possibility of atheism being one more point of view. But I and other non-believers (or liberals as some might call us) do not get offended and threaten religious people in return. We do not burn scriptures or threaten godmen to be silent. We do not desecrate temples and mosques or call for the beheading of secularists who convert to some religion. We simply choose to ignore such texts and people and mind our own business.

We never force others away from following whatever books or people they want to. Why? Because we acknowledge that everybody has the choice. That is the most logical and tolerant view. But for the religious fraternity, even if someone else reads a book by someone they dislike, it offends them. How unbelievable! My reading a novel somehow magically hurts someone else? Incredible!

Tolerance means giving others the space and the right to say, read or write whatever they want to regardless of one’s own opinion on the matter. One doesn’t have to accept or even respect the beliefs of others in order to be tolerant. One just has to accept that everybody has rights and we should agree to disagree.

Upon being offended, the first thing believers do is threaten havoc and violent clashes if what they demand is not fulfilled. Is that tolerance or intolerance? I think the believer’s version of tolerance ultimately means this: We will do the nice thing of tolerating you and your freedom of expression only as long as you say what we approve of, but the moment you say something we do not like, we would be forced to get appallingly violent.

So, as long as someone is saying and doing what only the religious fraternity likes, where is the question of tolerance in that?

The Hurt-Feelings Group

censor

In my previous blog, Books can be Dangerous, I tried to ridicule a certain kind of people who hate books and are scared of reading them and even intimidate others who read them or talk about them. The reason they give? “Our feelings are hurt. Sob! Sob!”

It turns out, I spoke too soon. And too little.

The fact is, it is not just about books – though books are the easiest targets – it is as much about any other medium of information such as Television, Cinema, Newspapers, Magazines, and other Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And if you thought you’ve seen everything, you would be surprised to know that even the toy maker LEGO has been accused of racism. (Read this wonderful blog for more or this news link). And why? Because LEGO made a model of the domed palace for a star-wars character called “Jabba the Hutt” and this infuriated a Turkish community in Austria who complained that it was intentionally made to look like a Turkish mosque. And what was the resemblance? The mosque has a dome, Jabba’s palace has a dome, the mosque has 4 towers around it, Jabba’s palace also has a tower. Hence, the resemblance. Conclusion? Racism. See this:

Jabba

Even though some of these disturbances might be dismissed as politically motivated or uninformed and uneducated reactions of “some” people, it is important to analyze these situations with utmost diligence because what look like isolated incidents might turn out to be indications of long term problems.

What gets attacked? Anything.

Protests against Rushdie and his "The Satanic Verses"

Protests against Rushdie and his “The Satanic Verses”

Books they have never read and will never read and which were, in some cases, published decades back but went unnoticed by “them” because of the same reason: they have never read and won’t ever read (and can’t, maybe?). Prime examples of mindless attacks are a) 1980s: Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, b) 2012: Some authors reading from this book, c) 2013: Organizers of previous year’s event even though there isn’t even any talk of the book this year at all. What does the State say? Nothing.

vishwaroopamCinema: Films that have not been released yet are the easiest targets. The most recent example is the Kamal Hassan starrer, multilingual thriller called “Vishwaroopam”. I am not certain what caused this movie to be opposed so vehemently that its release in a few cities in India has been deferred by 15 days. This is going to be a disaster for the project and a complete insult to the hard work of a man who has been a jewel in the crown of Indian Cinema for decades. Instead of saluting Mr. Hassan for his contribution to Indian cinema, some people have chosen to destroy his movie. And, I think the reason given for their opposition to the movie is that the terrorists in the movie are shown to be of a certain religion. And you thought such a detail would be trivial, huh? What does the State say? “Ban the damned movie.”

Social Media: Like a facebook comment or cartoon and the Police might show up and arrest you, even slapping you with the charge of sedition against the state, like what keeps happening now.

mfhussainArt: Take, for example, what happened in India a few years ago when legendary painter MF Hussain, another jewel in India’s crown, was driven out of his own country and into exile by fundamentalist organizations who threatened to kill him for creating a painting which depicted a Goddess naked (at least that is how I percieved the issue). Even the state did not make any attempt protect the legend. And why? Because the hurt-feelings-card was played.

Let’s accept it, art is not for everyone. A piece of art by a popular artist can be worth millions to those who understand it, while to the layman who is uninterested, unappreciative and uneducated (in arts) like most of us (yes, me included sometimes), it might not hold much value. Despite that, I understand that proclamation of the “hidden” meaning of a piece art should be left to those who appreciate and understand it and so, if you ask me, I would completely refrain from passing a judgement on a painting or sculpture. Simply because I don’t understand it, my opinion would be of no relevance whatsoever to the world and therefore the meaning of any such piece of art should not be my business to interpret and attack.

But that is exactly what some people forget. They go around their tiny little world putting their sensitive and underdeveloped intellects in the path of others, ready to flare up and burn the world at the tiniest of provocation (or no provocation).

Today, they are attacking things in public domain, tomorrow they will intrude into our homes and even tell us what we can and cannot do as individuals.

The only solution is for States to crush such misadventures of opposition to anything, even if the issues raised seem isolated. Otherwise, tomorrow, these will become precedents for bigger and bigger problems.

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