Nahid's 'fatwa' row & case against Kamal Hassan's Mahabharat remarks shows Hindu & Muslim orthodox groups are equally stupid

What's common in both these cases is how people connected God and religion with morality and made it an excuse to commit such hate crimes!

Be it the Maulvis opposing 16-year-old Indian Idol Assamese contestant Nahid Afrin or be it the case lodged against Kamal Haasan by the Members of the Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) for making derogatory remarks against Mahabharata, the recent events clearly shows that extremist stupidity has no religion at all!

Though the Maulvis denied issuing any fatwa and claimed that the leaflet issued by them by the name Guhari (request or appeal) did not even mention Nahid’s name, the notice categorically mentioned that the March 25 programme at Udali Sonai Bibi College in Lanka in Hojai district, where Afrin was scheduled to perform was “against the Sharia laws”. The leaflet, which was signed by 46 Muslim clerics including the office bearers of the Assam State Jamiat Ulama and teachers from various madrassas around the state, asked people not to attend the March 25 event.

The pamphlet mentioned that if anti-Sharia acts like musical nights are held on grounds surrounded by masjids, idgahs, madrassas and graveyards, the future generations will attract the wrath of Allah.

Nahid Afrin

Pamphlet against Nahid Afrin

“If we don’t keep our children away from such things, Allah will not spare any of us,” it reads. The pamphlet warns that events like the one which is to be held on March 25 would “definitely anger Allah”.

It concluded by saying, “We humbly request you to restrain not only yourself from attending such an event but also encourage others to do the same.”

Similarly, Kamal Hassan is facing criminal charges for speaking on Draupadi’s assault in Mahabharata.

In a recent interview to a Tamil channel, Haasan reportedly said that a woman is gambled away in the epic, while referring to Mahabharata, and India honours such a book.

This comment angered the members of HMK and Akila Hindu Mahasabha so much that they actually went ahead and filed charges against him for hurting their “sentiments”. They also questioned Hassan if he would ever speak about Quran or Bible in the same “derogatory manner”.

However, this is not the first time for Hassan. He faced the wrath of the Muslim community after the release of his movie Vishwaroopam as they felt that Hassan has shown the whole community under a negative light. We are seeing continuous attack on sets of Padmavati by a fringe Rajput group to stall its shooting without even knowing the content of the film. As many as 1000 costumes have been burnt by them. Now the group has the backing of a Rajasthan minister who said the film can release only if Karni Sena allows it.

Nahid and Haasan are not alone. Many people have been at the receiving end of this bigotry and have faced it from their own community, for instance Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen to name a few. Last year, this extremism claimed the lives of a renowned writer Kalburgi and Amjad Sabri, a leading sufi singer from Pakistan.

What’s common in all these cases is how people connected God and religion with morality and made it an excuse to commit such hate crimes!

Nobelist Steven Weinberg, while accepting the Humanist of the Year Award in 2014, said, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

Though, Weinberg did make sense with his last line, I disagree with him as religion doesn’t give anyone an authority to be evil. Rather it gives people a convenient excuse to lower the bar of the crime they would have otherwise avoided committing. So technically, religion isn’t the reason for people to act like jerks but it’s the catalyst behind people’s  prejudiced behavior.

Be it honour killing or the campaign to “De-Gay” the LGBT community, people have always used the ancient texts in their holy books as a shield to commit hate crimes against people of different faith or ideologies.

While not everyone receives bigotry on such a large scale, we all, in our everyday lives, are seen through the prism of religious norms. For instance, a lot of my Muslim friends judge me for not wearing a Hijab or for being “too western”.

However, how good it would be if rather than using religion as an excuse to the prejudices that they harbor, people would use their faith as an excuse to be kind, do good and see good in others instead of passing their faith-based judgements? If only people would interpret their faith in a more humanistic way stop making the conservative religion a free pass for their banal prejudices, neither did Hassan had to face any charges nor did so many artists had to face opposition or lose their lives!