Exploring outrage industry’s agendas

It is high time Muslims grew mature, and developed confidence to tackle difficult subjects and not fall for the agenda of ‘vulture activists’

| Updated: 25 May, 2023 12:44 am IST
There were outrages about The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story

Why is there outrage from the Muslim community, its agenda activists, its selective condemnation cabal, anti-India global networks and the cancel culture Islamophobia industry whenever a movie depicting Islamist radicalism is released, a book supposedly blasphemes, a cartoon is deemed offensive, a song hurts sensibilities, or an artwork disrespects religious beliefs?

The networks, activists and influencers go into overdrive whenever there is news coming up of a terrorist attack, a hijacking, a kidnapping, or a threat from a person of Muslim heritage towards those disagreeing with them. Anybody would think depicting the rot within is good for the community, for it enables them to take stock, analyse, understand, introspect, and start taking measures to deal with the issues. But no.

For us, the Rushdie Affair, as it came to be known, was the highlight of our teens in 1989, when Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, issued a fatwa on him, putting up a bounty on his head for writing The Satanic Verses. Later we came to know no one had read it and the title referred to a no-go topic or lore in Islamic history which is still debatable.

Since then, there have been periodic occasions when the entire global ummah has been outraged by either the Charlie Hebdo cartoons published in a French magazine that satirises ‘all’ religions and political stances. Its staff was murdered, and their deaths were celebrated; the movie Submission’s director, Theo van Gogh, was stabbed to death, and his friend and critic, the famous author Ayaan Hirsi Ali was threatened next; the Bangladeshi author of Lajja, Taslima Nasreen had to take asylum in India just like Hirsi Ali in the US after getting death threats. The pattern never changes.

The current generations are starting to become aware of the whitewashing of history done by Leftist-Liberal historians in India to keep the so-called ‘communal harmony’, with the understanding that documenting the brutalities of the past will only add to the permanent fault lines that Indians inherited in the wake of the Partition.

But awareness cannot be stopped once it is planted, like a seed; due to the Internet and social media, those who want to know the truth will go to any length to uncover it. Hence, it is common to come across earlier attempts by Muslim mobs to silence sceptics, dissenters or individuals who did not toe the orthodoxy line.

For example, the murder of the publisher of Rangeela Rasool was written by Pandit MA Chamupati in British India in 1927. The book was published in response to a pamphlet titled Sitaka Chinala that depicted the Hindu goddess Sita in a derogatory manner. Understandably, the publication of Rangeela Rasool caused significant outrage among the Muslim community, leading to protests and violent demonstrations. The author Chamupati and publisher, Mahashe Rajpal, faced legal action, and eventually, Rajpal was assassinated by Ilmudin, a carpenter, in 1929, the assassin was defended by none other than Mohd Ali Jinnah.

Throughout various time periods and ages, we see this censorship and attacks on freedom of speech by Muslims, with politicians making it into a vote bank issue and agenda-driven citizens engineering the term ‘Islamophobia’ to shut down the debates and discussions every time an artwork, book, or movie is released to bring forth uncomfortable facts and realities within the Muslim world.

Recently, Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad’s speech was cancelled. Murad, 28, was set to sit down with students from some of the 600 schools that are part of the Toronto District School Board to talk about her upcoming book, The Last Girl: My Story Of Captivity, to be published in February 2022. But school board superintendent Helen Fisher pulled the plug on Murad’s visit, saying she would not let students attend because the book would be offensive to Muslims and “foster Islamophobia”.

The screening of The Lady Of Heaven, written by Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Yasser al-Habib and directed by Eli King, led to massive protests in the UK, with critics calling it “blasphemous” and “racist”. The movie, released on June 3, depicts the story of Lady Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, and is billed as the first-ever film to do so. This story is intertwined with the tale of a young Iraqi child in modern times, some 1,400 years later.

In India, there was outrage when The Kashmir Files was released, and the usual suspects campaigned to have it dismissed to the extent of inviting a Left-leaning Israeli dissenter to a forum who declared it propaganda. Despite the fact that the screenplay of the movie is based on the testimony of survivors of the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) from the Valley of Kashmir since 1989 and the target of assassinations that continue to this day, it does not enable them to return to their homeland.

With the world becoming increasingly fed-up with the coddling of Muslim citizens and the usual Islamic organisations jumping to defend their faith and prove the innocence of perpetrators, the making of movies that depict extremist terror groups drawing inspiration from the Muslim faith has increased.

Recently, The Kerala Story was another movie that found itself in a storm; the plot involves the grooming of three Hindu girls and one Christian girl from the South Indian state of Kerala who were trafficked by their husbands to ISIS-controlled areas. As usual, due to the disinformation campaign by the cabal, 26 actual women who had been rescued and rehabilitated had to come up in a press conference to prove their experiences.

In a world that is intolerant of dissent and struggles for inclusivity of people who look and think differently, it should have been welcoming to hold civilised debates and intensive discussions on uncomfortable topics instead of cancelling each other.

History is witness to the fact that teaching about slavery, racism, apartheid, gender inequality, colonial imperial policies, sexual harassment, environmental exploitation, and domestic violence brings about change by influencing policy and lawmakers.

Germany does not shy away from teaching about the Holocaust and Russians are learning about the Holodomor, a man-made famine that took place in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933. Life behind the Iron Curtain, in Communist Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany under the Stasi and the Middle East under dictators like Gaddafi and Saddam is frequently portrayed in documentaries and movies.

The whistle on the My Lai massacre by the US Army was blown by Ron Ridenhour, an American soldier who, along with journalist Seymour Hersh, investigated the role of the Charlie Company in the killing of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, predominantly women, children, and elderly individuals, on March 16, 1968, in the village of My Lai in South Vietnam.

Even today, US university campuses and American film and media companies depict the atrocity, and no one asks for bans or cancellations. The aim was to self-correct and stop the unjust war amidst all the anti-war sentiments that the US people were expressing. The film became a sort of beacon.

Another example is the ‘Wounded Knee Massacre’ by the US, a grave injustice, and a tragic chapter in the history of Native American relations with the United States, when 150 to 300 Lakota Sioux, including women, children, and men, were killed during the massacre. Though initially termed a victory over the indigenous people, over the years, the maturity, confidence and consciousness of the American people made the government acknowledge that a great travesty had occurred. That is the purpose of showcasing difficult subjects.

The same way the excesses and highhandedness of the J&K Police, paramilitary forces and complicity of Kashmiri bureaucrats in the 1990s Kashmir, when scores of Kashmiri boys and men disappeared from custody or were killed, have been portrayed in the movie Haider.

If these movies have been released and screened without hassle, why should there be outrage if this time the extremism emanating is from the Muslim side? As this piece goes for publication, there is news of Islamic organisations seeking to ban a Tamil-language movie, Farhana, because they say it is against Islamic beliefs. The plot of the movie is about a young married Muslim woman who works as a customer support executive in the corporate world but suddenly gets her life overturned when she unwittingly gets into the phone sex chat industry.

It beats me why a movie with a fictional character would damage the image of Muslims and Islam when scores of fictional literature and film exist that satirise communities, groups, individuals and no one takes offence.

It is high time Muslims grew mature, and developed confidence to tackle difficult subjects and not fall for the agenda of ‘vulture activists’ who want to sustain their jet-setting lifestyles based on the outrage industry while keeping the Indian Muslims’ mentality stuck in medieval times.

Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own

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