Give The Thought Police A Millimeter, They Will Take a Light Year

I first heard of Charlie Hebdo only this week, when the attack on their offices was breaking news. I don’t understand French, nor am I a scholar of Islam, so I cannot truly judge either how distasteful or funny the cartoons are.  However, I do know that tasteful or not no one deserves to die for expressing an idea. Also, religious zealots of any religion should not have a veto over what ideas can and cannot be discussed. If  zealots of one  stripe can dictate terms of acceptable discourse you tacitly extend the courtesy to  zealots of all persuasions. This is not a hypothetical slippery slope but something that has actually happened in India.

In the late 80’s the Congress led government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in their infinite wisdom decided to ban the import of Salman Rushdie’s  Satanic Verses because they deemed that the book might hurt the feeling of some in India’s Muslim community. Since Penguin’s Indian imprint had already decided not to publish The Verses in India due to its content, the book was de facto banned in India. In fact India became the first country to ban the Verses.

Since 1988, many  other books have either been outright banned or pulled from the shelves in India. Fiction, non-fiction, anything is fair game.  Anything that anyone, especially the emboldened Hindu right wing parties find remotely uncomfortable gets banned in India these days.  This list includes pulp fiction like The Da Vinci code or a non-fiction doorstop about the alternative history of  Hinduism by Wendy Doniger and books on Shivaji and Gandhi.  This ridiculousness does not stop with  books on religion and historical figures, among the banned  books  are books about an airline and another one about a the rags to riches story about the  textile baron, Dhirubhai Ambani.  Here is  Wikipedia’s list of the books that are not freely available in India. 

Go Police Someone Else’s Thoughts

 

By two_kittehs

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Posted on January 12, 2015, in Cats, Current News, Cute Animals, India and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The free flow of information is a requirement for a democracy, for sure. India seems to be moving towards autocracy in order to appease its Muslim community, but things can get just as bad in the U.S. in terms of self-censorship, which I consider to be more insidious 🙂

    As for religious radicals, they are religious only in so they can leverage their claimed religion in order to gain legitimacy for their acts. Therefore, I suggest just calling them radicals and leave the religion out of it. They’re just murderers.

    • Its not just the Muslims, the Hindu right is behind many a book banning as well. I would like to leave religion out of it but it is the zealots presume to speak on the behalf of all adherents of a particular religion and cast themselves as the only true protectors of faith.

      • Yeah, it can be difficult to separate the two. I myself struggle with it whenever one of these events happens, because it is easy to just blame religion and not the people who repurpose the message for destructive means. But I think you have to resist that thinking, because its easy to start falling for propaganda which just furthers the hate.

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