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Sunday, February 12, 2006

'When a Muslim Paints Nude Hindu Gods'

This is a commentary from the Asia Times on India's battle with extremism:

When a Muslim paints nude Hindu gods, by Siddharth Srivastava, Commentary, Asia Times: New Delhi - Fortunately, there have not been virulent protests in India against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, though close to 150 million Muslims reside in the country. However, attention is being drawn to Hindu fundamentalists taking umbrage at India's top artist, M F Husain, who has been booked by police for "hurting sentiments of people" with paintings that depict nude gods. ...

He is not new to controversy and has invited the ire of right-wing sections in the past because of his naked and provocative paintings of various Hindu deities ... The fact Husain is a Muslim who chooses to depict Hindu gods the way he wants has always angered Hindu extremists. This time the fury is over a painting that depicts Bharatmata ("Mother India") in the nude. ... The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which subscribes to Hindu majority rule, has severely criticized Husain, with party general secretary Vinay Katiyar demanding the arrest of the painter. Extremist Hindu organizations have been more aggressive. ...

A case has been registered against Husain ... by radical Hindu organizations ...for hurting sentiments of people. ... The deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, R R Patil, has said state police are conducting a probe into the allegations. ... Husain, meanwhile, has apologized... At one level such intolerance to free expression is a reflection of the way India is - a multi-layered and cultural cauldron of classes, castes and religion, liberal and conservative opinions. It is also a sad commentary that radical and extremist elements hold people to ransom whenever they wish, a wasted vengeance that is often buttressed by politicians to fulfill their own narrow gains. ...

Fundamentalist Hindus ... have attacked movie halls that screen controversial films and art galleries ..., as well as protested India-Pakistan cricket matches, couples holding hands, women wearing jeans and celebrations linked to Western influences such as Valentine's Day. And all in the name of cleansing society for a higher social value system. Last year, Sikhs protested against the Bollywood film, Jo Bole So Nihaal, starring top actor Sunny Deol. What followed were bomb blasts, believed by the police to be the handiwork of Sikh extremists, at movie halls in New Delhi that killed and crippled many. ...

Emboldened, Muslim clerics continue to issue irrational diktats. They include the instance of the alleged rape of a Muslim woman, Imrana, by her father-in-law. The clerics declared that Imrana should treat her husband as a son and move in with her alleged rapist. ... India's tennis sensation Sania Mirza has been a victim. While Mirza is a national icon because of her tennis victories, fatwas (edicts) that she "covers up" have continued to fly... They want her, as a devout Muslim, to wear long pants and full-sleeved shirts, the way it is with sportswomen of Muslim countries such as Iran or Pakistan.

Issues related to sex, too, invite as much attention as religion. Recently, Khusboo, rated among the top actresses in southern India ... said in a magazine interview that premarital sex was okay provided it was safe, consensual and between adults. The brouhaha included statewide protests, rallies, burning and beating of her effigies with chappals (slippers) as well as court cases. Local politicians keen to play the caste card because of upcoming elections in the state fanned the fire. ...

In another instance, an Israeli couple who kissed after marrying according to Hindu rituals ... were in for shock and harassment after priests filed a complaint with the police that they defied Hindu religious norms by doing so. There are reports of more foreign couples being victimized by priests at Pushkar. A hotel was forced to shut down ... after pictures appeared in the media of a couple kissing at a party in the premises. ...

    Posted by on Sunday, February 12, 2006 at 12:03 AM in India | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (10)

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