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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Banning the Da Vinci Code

It is interesting tracking the controversy surrounding the release of the movie based on the book Da Vinci Code. Some people are understandably disturbed (to put it mildly) at some parts of the movie and are in favor of banning the movie.

For someone like me (and I am sure many more) this seems absurd. After all we live in a democracy and there is something called 'freedom of expression'. If some people are disturbed or aghast at some sections of the movie, they have the option of not watching the movie. But that is no reason to ban the movie.

But when I think deeper, it brings out the inherent hypocrisy in my thought process. I have no sympathies for Catholics whose feelings are hurt by the movie and I can make a general statement that most Indians do not - but I ask myself this simple question:

What would have happened in this world if something similar was said against Prophet Mohammed? Just some piece of cartoons are sufficient to have weeks of protests across the world. A statement as blasphemous as one in the book regarding the prophet and the entire Muslim world would have been up in arms and would have burnt for weeks.

Why go that far? How would I react if some similar statements were made about Hindu gods/goddesses in a movie? Would I be equally loudly trumpeting the cause of 'freedom of speech' - probably not. Already we have had examples of how people reacted against M.F. Hussain for his paintings of Hindu deities in what were perceived as being in an 'objectionable' manner. We all know how a certain political party's activists reacted violently to a book on Shivaji. We have instances of people protesting violently against movies which do not 'glorify' people like Mahatma Gandhi or Dr. Ambedkar or Subhash Chandra Bose. In most of these cases, my first reaction was also one of intense anger at what I considered to be exploitation of the right of 'freedom of expression' Even today, I do not think that a lot of these actions/expressions were justified and that the right of freedom of speech is not a absolute right under which all acts can be subsumed.

The very fact that most of the Christian world has just shrugged off this movie says a lot about the level of tolerance of these people to contrary views (and how contrary). As a society we brag about how tolerant we are. But are we really? I know that I certainly am not, certainly a long way from what would be considered to be a global benchmark in tolerance.

We have a long way to go... I have a long way to go....

That's it for now...

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