Excerpt from The Economic Times:”First Salman Rushdie, now Taslima Nasreen – end of cultural tolerance?”
KOLKATA: The cancellation of the release of controversial author Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography at the famed Kolkata Book Fair has thrown the spotlight on the destructive clout of religious fanatics in a city once known for savouring cultural pluralism.
Last week’s incident, coupled with the Salman Rushdie controversy – when the Booker awardee had to call off his visit and then his much-anticipated video address at the Jaipur Literature Festival following security threats triggered by some Islamic groups’ protest – would go down as another instance of Indian authorities and parties kowtowing before religious rabblerousers.
While the Rushdie episode saw the political parties and the government, in the words of novelist Vikram Seth, “knuckling under” an “enforced disgrace because of power and politics”, the only difference here was that publishers went ahead with the launch of the book at the fair, despite the hostile attitude of organisers.
The seventh volume of Nasreen’s book “ Nirbasan” (Exile), which deals with her life after exile from Kolkata in 2007 and which almost nobody had read before the release, saw religious fundamentalists protesting against the launch.
Hours before the release function, the organisers telephoned the publishers, People’s Book Society, asking them to cancel the programme due to “logistical problems”. But later it transpired that some Islamic groups had approached the authorities and the city police against the book release.
A top official of the organising body, Publishers’ and Book Sellers’ Guild, confirmed the development and stoutly defended its decision to stop the launch.
“We cannot allow any such thing to happen inside the Book Fair premises which can hurt the interest of the common people coming to the fair. We cannot allow anything that may hurt the religious sentiments of any community.”
Be it Jaipur or Kolkata, political parties remained mum or played it safe, ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls where Muslims will constitute a key vote segment.
Read full article here.
How long are we going to allow religious fanatics to dictate what we can or can not do?
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.
Why is it that we, atheists, humanists, and free-thinkers, must tolerate their religious views, but they won’t tolerate ours?
I am tempted to justify that statement by stating that perhaps they have a lower IQ level, hence making it difficult to form logical and objective analysis. Or maybe, it’s the arrogance of Abrahamic religious texts – Islam, Christianity, and Judaism – that perilously proclaims itself the truth, while mortally condemning all other belief systems.
There is no evidence that this “God” exists – none whatsoever! Religious fanaticism is the equivalent of a child murdering his parents in cold blood because they told him Santa Claus is a fictional character. For governments to give in to such insolence is dangerous, because it provides the fanatics a sense of justification to their lofty beliefs. Religious fanaticism is not a third-world problem, it’s a global issue that’s threatening to silence the intelligent and the rationalist, while celebrating the crazy and the irrational.