“I was Charlie Hebdo” in 2015 when two jihadi brothers shot and killed their Editor, his bodyguard, four cartoonists, two columnists, a copy editor, a caretaker, a guest and a cop at their office for ‘having dared’ to publish the cartoons of the Prophet. Another lady cop and four Jews had also succumbed in a related hostage crisis.
“I was Charlie Hebdo” in 2020 when Samuel Patty was cruelly beheaded for showing the abovementioned cartoons to his students, and the Muslim street had protested against the magazine, France and her audacious President Emmanuel Macron.
“Je Suis Charlie Hebdo” in the summer of 2021, when the magazine has pulled a satirical punch on the Hindu religious life by publishing a cartoon and lamenting –
“ 33 million Gods in India and not one capable of producing Oxygen.”
This is the summer of mismanagement and deathly gloom in India. We have been flattened by the second onslaught of the China Virus, and our medical systems have been found wanting when faced with the huge demand for ICU Beds, Oxygen and life-saving drugs. Thanks to the magazine for highlighting this destruction. May the system learn and become more efficient and responsive.
Whether the cartoonist understood 33 koti (Hindus have 33 koti Gods) as 33 crore or 33 million (3.3cr) or 33 types (12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, 8 Vasus, 2 Ashvins) of Gods is not of much significance. In the spirit of Voltaire, I shall defend the cartoonist’s right to offend even if I might or not subscribe to his views. The same is also true of my fellowmen, as is indicated by almost zero reaction to the cartoon which appeared on the Facebook page of the magazine on April 28th. This is the true Hindu spirit. The Hindu civilization is far too secure to be perturbed by few barbs and jibes. As individuals we might act impulsively, but as a civilization we know how to turn a blind eye, and move on.
But their comment raises three questions as to who and what is being mocked-
- The 33 (or 330) million Gods that Hindus supposedly worship, or
- the crisis of oxygen that hit us hard, or
- the fact that none of the Hindu gods could provide us oxygen when we most needed it ?
Out of the 33 Gods that Hindus worship, two of the Vasu Gods are Dyaus(Sky) and Vayu(Wind), who are definitely connected with oxygen. At least the thought process of our ancestors could not be faulted. They knew whom to worship for blessings. Unlike the Abrahmaics, Hindus do not leave it to their Gods to resolve problems. Rather they conduct ‘pooja’ to keep the Gods favourably inclined and guide humans in performing the right action (karma). Crisis resolution lies in the human domain. We do not play the blame game. But surely this understanding is beyond the scope of a mere ‘humour’ magazine.
Poor planning and state of unpreparedness for the Second Wave cannot be denied. It is this criticism which is welcome, but if Charlie Hebdo sees itself as the Prophet of Monotheism, then it can take a walk and shove up its Abrahmaic beliefs up its proselytizing arse. The magazine did not say if the Almighty of Christians, Allah of Muslims and Money of the Atheists were able to provide oxygen, HCQ, Remdisivir or other kinds of protection from the China Virus in the US, France, Germany and UK in their times of distress? Perhaps, Charlie Hebdo has absolved man and chosen to indict only God(s). That would be quite un-Renaissance like, for isn’t man the measure of all things as per the European Enlightenment? Has the cartoonist overlooked that Gods help only those who help themselves?
Charlie Hebdo publishes to provoke. It gets them eyeballs. This is their very business model. But the cartoon failed to find traction in India because frankly, no one cares, not even after the social media blitz two weeks after the publication to evoke some response. Still the cartoon does sting, as it should. The governments failed us, and we did fail the system in turn. Everyone dropped the guard too soon. Self-congratulatory euphoria could have waited. We have been found wanting. Fair criticism cannot hurt. Abusing and killing of the critics would. Indians are not like them, and would not want to be seen in the same light as Arabs or Pakistanis.
Absolute faith of any kind disappoints- be it in Gods, or in the absence of it ; in a despot, or in democracy; in liberty or in charity. On that note I would also like to add my name in the ever-growing list of those fans of Charlie Hebdo who keenly await the edition in which Holocaust shall be mocked. May that day arrive soon. Freedom to offend should be uniformly exercised by offending one and all.
“Je Suis Charlie” does not mean that the French magazine is beyond criticism, or has achieved the highest level of journalistic excellence. Neither does it signify that Charlie Hebdo is beyond reproach for harbouring double standards. But this slogans reaffirms our faith in the freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to mock and offend, and is not limited by fake notions of respect, communal sensibilities and victimhood. As far as double standards of the liberal-leftist Indian media are concerned, the less said the better. Neither the Hindu, nor the Print not any other website, newspaper or publication had dared to republish or share the cartoons of the Prophet- neither in 2015, nor in 2020. But most of them have gleefully shared the latest one mocking Indian Gods. This is not just appeasement of one religious community, but the glee at the publication of the latest cartoon also betrays the hatred for the Hindus, which must be exposed.
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#fatwah #righttooffend #voltaire #holocaust