Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rushdie, Knights and Intolerance

There is lots of humors in world. Salmaan Rushdie , the controversial writer who wrote Satanic Verses and then spent entire decade running and hiding from people who perhaps never read his book but wanted to chop off his head, was recently awarded knighthood by UK. That is funny. I mean, I thought Knights belong to bygone era. I just can not imagine Salmaan Rushdie as a mounted combatant, carrying sword and galloping on a horse with a nice damsel for a company. Stereotypes.

I think these days everybody is in good humor, or how else would you respond to this news that "Pakistan parliament protests Knighthood honors to Rushdie". Parliament in Pakistan!! Hello! I thought Pakistan had military rule since last few years so what does its parliament do, apart from arguing and dreaming over Kashmir endlessly! Another funny reaction is from Iran which accused British leaders of Islam-o- phobia , which though is quite understandable, given the recent hostility between two countries.

Now call it clash of civilizations or whatever and enough has been said and written on it. But what these guys protesting over Rushdie do not perhaps understand that countries like UK are free, tolerant , liberal societies where an individual enjoys rights and freedom of speech and opportunities which most of people in countries like Pakistan, Iran etc. can only dream of. These countries also dont persecute people based on religion as much as other supposedly slef-righteous countries do. I will give an example from my own experience. Couple of years back when I was working in UK, on one of lazy Sunday afternoons I happened to be in city square in Birmingham where about 3 dozens Muslim (quite visible form skull caps and beards) protestors were gathered to protest against I don’t remember exactly what. There were half a dozen Policemen watching the whole proceeding from distance and a thin crowd of curious onlookers mostly made up of weekend shoppers. One of the protestors, on stage was lecturing and bemoaning the persecution of Muslims in Britain, intolerance of British society and how they were made to suffer in UK. I found it funny since here was a muslim man who was living in UK and was free to stand on city square and criticize the country and people which had given him home when he had probably come looking for job and better life. Is this persecution! Is this intolerance! Nobody hurled a stone at him, nobody stopped him and nobody from white crowd jeered him, the same people he was trying to accuse in his talk. I felt like asking him, if his own country which I presumed from his talk was Pakistan, would even let anybody so openly stand in city square and do someting like him without risking injury or jail! If you are in Iran perhaps and happen to be let’s say Christian and you gather on Tehran’s city square and do the same thing, you would perhaps be butchered! If you are a hindu in Iran , would you be allowed to build temples and follow your religion without fear! Now how much is that for tolerance and accusing others of phobias and intolerence .

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