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Islam and Pluralism (06 Mar 2010 NewAgeIslam.Com)



M. F. Husain: EXILING TRADITION

By Jyotirmaya Sharma

5 march, 2010

Husain’s workis rooted in the pauranik tradition which celebrates interpretation and improvisation

THE M. F. Husain controversy can be viewed at various levels. At one level, it is one of the uneducated literates and the uneducated illiterates of the sangh parivar making a public display of bad taste.

They have been caught in a time warp that compels them to think of Hindu gods and goddesses only in the artless, yet stylised, form that Raja Ravi Varma gave them.

Most of them can hardly distinguish between a kirana- shop new- year calendar and a canvas: they are to art what Bal Thackeray is to democracy, namely, a pestilence and a running sore. Despite their nationalist and Hindu rhetoric, there is scarcely anyone who can convince them that they are prisoners of Victorian tastes and morality, and what they impose in the name of moral policing through their unchecked thuggery is neither national nor Hindu.

The sangh parivar also has a few English- speaking Oxbridge types who, perhaps, privately collect and possess a Husain painting or two, but make a show of public condemnation of the artist. They are ready to question Husain’s acceptance of Qatari citizenship, but are more than willing to embrace an ill- informed and megalomaniac individual like V. S. Naipaul as Indian, Hindu and as one of their own just because he repeats their mindless platitudes and universalises their deep- seated prejudices.

While political expediency has led the RSS, the BJP and their other excitable affiliates to take unusual positions with regard to the Shah Rukh Khan controversy, it represents no paradigm shift as far as their core ideology is concerned. Having flogged the rhetoric of nationalism for so long, they can scarcely take on the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan and Asha Bhonsle.

In taking divergent positions, for instance, on Shah Rukh Khan as contrasted with the Husain controversy, the sangh parivar has sought to confuse those elements within what they perceive as the Hindu community who remain disenchanted with their brand of intolerant and threatening Hindutva.

Sins

Their political strategy is to present not one unified face of Hindutva, but a proliferation of various masks that would, in the end, be successful in hiding the true tenets of their ideology.

The sangh parivar has realised that for the Indian middle class, there is no single idea of the sacred but a plurality of choices, some of them secular, that an individual might consider sacred and impart equal value.

If this argument is plausible, the question remains why the sangh parivar has one set of positions in relation to Taslima Nasreen and Shah Rukh Khan and another stance in relation to M. F. Husain. On the face of it, they are all Muslims.

The Hindutva votaries see Taslima Nasreen as someone who speaks against the hardened and fanatical aspects of Islam and Islamic clergy.

Shah Rukh Khan speaks about being an ardent nationalist, wears his and his family’s nationalism on the sleeve and speaks of a soft humanism that forms the very stuff that the middle class and the new- age gurus espouse. On the contrary, Husain dares to interpret the great epics and the gods and goddesses that inhabit these texts in the manner of a grand pauranik commentator. The freedom that a pauranik has to interpret, interpolate and improvise a classical tradition and keep it alive is the very antithesis of what Hindutva stands for and seeks in the name of religion.

In other words, Husain is guilty in the eyes of the Hindutva fanatics of two cardinal sins. The first is to claim the right to partake of the common heritage of this country by not seeking permission from the selfappointed guardians of faith, but exercising this right as a free citizen of a free country.

The second, and more serious misdemeanour in the eyes of the lunatic mainstream of the sangh parivar, is to don the traditional mantle of a pauranik at a time when the Hindutva votaries themselves are seeking to abandon the dazzling plurality of the pauranik tradition in favour of a misunderstood and faulty notion of oneness. This manifests itself in a notion of advaita and its more contemporary pop variants in the service of arguments for national unity within the nationalist discourse.

It is no one’s business to question the taboo on the idea of representation in Islam, but Husain’s appropriation and celebration of the freedom to represent within the Hindu traditions, classical and folk, is a way also of intervening and questioning the hijacking of Islam by those who represent the al- Qaeda’s brand of intolerant Islam, which prohibits all forms of creativity, whether it is art, music or cinema. Questioning Husain’s right to interpret and represent Hindu gods and goddesses is symptomatic of the confusion that has existed within Hindu nationalism since the nineteenth century.

The Hindu nationalist attempt to paint the entity called Hinduism in monochromatic colours and to compel compliance on the basis of a distorted version of a unified faith makes its family resemblance to more fanatical versions of Islam more evident than it realises or is ready to admit.

Husain on the other hand has the best of both worlds.

State

He remains a Muslim in the sense that would make every civilised and reasonable Muslim proud, and he has fashioned himself also as an illustrious pauranik in the best sense that can be conveyed by that term.

The sangh parivar, on the other hand, lives in this vast sea of confusion, mouthing platitudes that are foreign, colonial and, worst still, Victorian.

Their vilification of Husain is a symptom of their own confusion and disarray; their only way of finding a solution, given their intellectual and moral bankruptcy, is to bully and intimidate. This is also one reason why the political affiliates of the Sangh are always ready to capture political power, which they see as the only way to impose their agenda.

Characteristically, the Indian state too has failed to protect the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Indian Constitution. In its actual functioning, the Indian state is secular on certain days of the week, indifferent on some other days, and aids and abets mindlessness on other days, and there are days when it actively colludes with the malcontents of society.

Even if the reasons are different, there is no explanation why the same state that can protect Shah Rukh Khan and the screening of his film cannot prevent the vandalism of Husain’s home or his exhibitions.

The Indian state too mirrors in many ways the confusion that has claimed the sangh parivar.

Mediocrity

It tries hard to be democratic, secular and fair on most days, but it lapses into populism, expediency and electoral calculations more often than it is desirable.

It is only a piece of useless legalism to claim that the state is different from the regime, and that the sins of the regime in power ought not to be interpolated on to the formal structures of the state.

This is nothing but pious intent, a dream that may someday fructify. But by the time it happens, the barbarians within would have driven many artists and other creative individuals out into self- imposed exile.

We will be left with our own mediocre crumbs and live in the smug satisfaction of at least having the dregs to contend with.

The writer teaches politics at University of Hyderabad

Source: Mail Today, New Delhi.

URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/m-f-husain--exiling-tradition/d/2540





TOTAL COMMENTS:-   6


  • A Lahore High Court Judge and  Hindus.
    Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif & Hindus [Dawn]
    Tactless remarks Dawn Editorial  Thursday, 18 Mar, 2010http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/14-tactless-remarks-830-zj-10Such remarks warrant criticism but what makes them worse is the position of the person who makes them. –Photo by APPBARELY days after the Punjab chief minister was caught playing to the Taliban gallery, another high official from the province is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This time, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif has sparked outrage for reportedly saying that Hindus were responsible for financing acts of terrorism inPakistan. The remarks came while the judge was hearing two identical petitions against the possible extradition of Afghan Taliban suspects. It may well have been a slip of the tongue by Mr Sharif, who might have mistakenly said ‘Hindu’ instead of ‘India’ — nevertheless it was a tasteless remark to say the least. Although such remarks warrant criticism what makes them worse is the position of the person who makes them. These sort of comments are the last thing one expects to hear from a judge, that too the chief justice of a provincial high court. What sort of message are we sending to our minorities, as well as to the world, when the holder of such a respected public office makes comments that come across as thoughtless? The Hindu members of the National Assembly walked out of the house on Tuesday to protest the remarks. The members said the comments had hurt the feelings of Pakistani Hindus — and there is no doubt that they had. As it is, Pakistan scores quite poorly when it comes to treating minorities fairly. Remarks such as these put our already marginalised minorities in an even tougher spot, as the patriotic credentials of non-Muslims living in this country are put into question. Though foreign elements may be involved in terrorist activities within Pakistan, maligning a whole community based on its faith is totally unacceptable. Before making such tactless remarks, our public figures should consider how much they dislike it when others equate Muslims with terrorism. A member of the National Assembly quite correctly advised our judges to concentrate on the dispensation of justice in Tuesday’s session. In the meantime, one hopes that Justice Sharif explains his comments.
    By Aamir Mughal -



  • Justice Khawaja Sharif speaks once again, this time against Hindus – by Abdul NishapuriMarch 17th, 2010Abdul NishapuriLeave a commentGo to comments


    http://criticalppp.org/lubp/archives/7263

    Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, Justice Khawaja Sharif, has spoken once again, with the hate speech and prejudice which are his usual characteristics. Justice Sharif is notorious for his unflinching support for PML-N and Taliban and for his hostility towards liberal and secular sections of Pakistani society.

    His latest remarks against our Hindu brothers and sisters are tantamount to hate speech, and are clearly in violation of the constitution of Pakistan which guarantees equality to all Pakistani irrespective of their race or religion.

    It may be recalled that brainwashed by hate mongers such as Khawaja Sharif, terrorists and extremists in Pakistan have in the past attacked and killed or injured scores of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadis, Shias etc.

    We urge Pakistan’s civil society to protest against the said remarks by Justice Khawaja Sharif. Justice Sharif must be called by a standing committee of the parliament to explain his position on this subject. The lawyer community must also lodge a legal case for the formal disqualification and dismissal of Khawaja Sharif from the esteemed post (CJ LHC) that he is undeservedly holding.

    The issue is already under discussion in the National Assembly. According to Saeed Minhas:

    .. a minority representative from PPP benches and others objected to a political comment by Lahore High Court’s ‘My Lord’. Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif was reportedly commenting on the involvement of minorities in bombings across the country. Minority members from the ANP, PPP and the PML-N staged a token walkout to register their protest, and asked My Lord to clarify or apologise to patriotic minorities of the country.

    According to another news item in Daily Times:

    LHC CJ’s remarks irk NA members

    ISLAMABAD: A reported statement by Lahore High Court Chief Justice (CJ) Khawaja Muhammad Sharif that the Hindu community was funding terrorism in Pakistan, irked members of the National Assembly, as many of whom joined minority members and walked out in protest. The lawmakers also demanded Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry take suo motu notice of the CJ’s remarks. Ramesh Lal, a minority lawmaker from the Pakistan People’s Party, raised the issue on a point of order and censured the CJ’s remarks, saying the Hindu community in Pakistan was as patriotic as the rest of the country and the remarks were highly uncalled for. Lal announced a token walkout and was joined by a few other members belonging to different parties, including the Awami National Party. He said the remarks hurt the over three million Hindus in Pakistan, adding the statement was against national unity. Labour and Manpower Minister Khursheed Shah tried to defend the CJ, saying he could not have made such a statement and might have referred to India and not the Hindu community. staff report Source: Daily Times

    Mohammad Malick too has taken note of Justice Sharif’’s irresponsible statement in his op-ed in The News:

    Of moneyed Hindus, Nawab sahib’s deadly post master & next finance minister

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010
    By By Mohammad Malick

    ISLAMABAD: On Monday, Shahbaz Sharif’s arguably controversial remarks pertaining to the Taliban sparing Punjab provided fodder for animated discussion in the House. On Tuesday, the parliamentary anger mills were fed by another Sharif. This time, no less than the honourable Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, Khwaja Mohammad Sharif.

    His remark about “Hindus” giving money and the Muslim militants using it to carry out terrorist activities while hearing a case made the Hindu and other minority parliamentarians cry out an anguished Hi Bhagwan and led to what must be the first ever parliamentary boycott of a sitting chief justice of a high court.

    We have seen a lot of strange things happen in our exceptionally colourful chequered political history but never before a walkout of such a nature. In a desperate bid to do some instant damage control, a rather unconvincing Syed Khurshid Shah wanted the House to believe that the honourable CJ must have meant to say “Hindustan and not just Hindu”, adding: “It was apparently a slip of tongue.” But Ramesh Laal wasn’t buying and making a speech before his protest walkout said that the honourable chief justice should have talked about a country but not about a religion. On hearing this one of the chaps sitting in the press gallery quipped: “If nothing else, a judge must be able to judge his own words.”

    A tad harsh assessment but not altogether without merit. It wasn’t as if Muslim MNAs weren’t in a supporting mood for their minority colleagues. Rasheed Akbar Niwani of the PML-N wanted the judges to “speak through judgements and not otherwise”, while Munawar Talpur apologised to the Hindu MNAs whom he described as “as good a Pakistani as anyone else”.

    It is inconceivable that the honourable chief justice would deliberately want to hurt the feelings of the hundreds of thousands of Hindu Pakistanis but still, exceptional care must be exhibited by men of stature, particularly those whose word is literally the law, to avoid strengthening any negative stereotyping of religious and ethnic minority groups in particular.

    Finally, this report by Raja Asghar in Dawn:

    A judge is judged in NA, with walkout
    By Raja Asghar
    Wednesday, 17 Mar, 2010

    ISLAMABAD, March 16: It was a rare, judge’s turn to be judged in the National Assembly on Tuesday as Hindu members staged a walkout to protest at reported remarks by the Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice alleging Hindu financing of terror attacks in the country.

    Some members of the Awami National Party too joined the first walkout against the judiciary in Pakistan’s parliament before the protesters were brought back to hear words of sympathy for the injured sentiments and some advice for judges to focus on delivering justice rather than publicity despite a government minister’s statement that the remark by Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif while hearing a case in Lahore on Thursday seemed to be “a slip of the tongue”.

    The protest was the second raised in the house over press reports in as many days after sharp criticism of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over his appeal to Taliban in a speech to a seminar in Lahore on Sunday to spare his province terror attacks because of some shared views with his PML-N party.

    PPP’s Hindu member Romesh Lal, who raised the issue, said sentiments of an estimated four million Pakistani Hindus had been injured by the LHC chief justice’s remarks, as reported in a section of the press, that while terrorist bomb blasts were being carried out by Muslims, “money used for this came from Hindus”.

    The member said if a country was suspected of sponsoring such attacks it should be named, but blame should not be put on just Hindus who, he said, were as good patriots as other Pakistanis.

    While drawing attention of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to what he called worry caused to Hindus, he appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take suo motu notice of Justice Sharif’s remarks.

    As Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Pir Aftab Shah Jilani and some other members of the ruling PPP went out of the chamber to persuade the protesters to return, party chief whip and Labour and Manpower Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah told the house the judge seemed to be blaming India for financing the Taliban rather Hindus, adding he was sure a clarification would come “by tomorrow”.

    PML-N’s Rashid Akbar Niwani said judges should devote to dispensation of justice instead of seeking publicity as he also advised the media to exercise “restraint”, particularly blasting unspecified television anchorpersons who, he said, should also be held accountable for their earnings together with “heads of (government) institutions” as often-maligned elected politicians.


    By Aamir Mughal -



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      By Aamir Mughal -



    • ‘Frustrated and intolerant, and Chauvinist’ – My reply is that I argue against arguments, not against abuses. ‘Erroneous comment’ - I wouldn’t know because no details have been provided. ‘Sexist’ - yes, because I am not a metrosexual.

      Note: on second thought I do feel I have given undue importance to Taslima Nasreen and a handle for you to highlight her. I therefore withdraw my remarks about her without an iota of change in my general ideas on the subject-matter.


      By Manzurul Haque -



    • Manzurul Haque's sexist and chauvinistic remark on Taslima Nasreen is completely uncalled for, and indicate some sort of frustration and intolerance on his part. This completely nullifies what could have been a perfectly legitimate though erroneous comment on M. F. Hussain


      By Asif Merchant -



    • The writer has tried hard to explain the confusion reigning in Hindu mind on the subject matter. But by definition, a respectably developed ‘confusion’ cannot be explained.

      Let me explain the Muslim position.

      Mr.M.F. Hussain is a born Muslim. Painting per se is not a prohibited activity in Islam.  Besides, as a Muslim he enjoys all the liberty to commit sins, because at the end of day when his good deeds outweigh his sins, he becomes eligible for salvation. So no Muslim has a right to question the quality of his personal practice of faith. Yes Muslims can have views about him in their individual private capacities. For example, I have my personal view that painting nudes per se shall not be approved by Allah and painting goddesses nude or dressed up shall certainly not be to the liking of Allah, although because of the high quality of his art many people including Muslims and including myself (I also have a right to commit little bit of sins, like watching the nudes, which shall be set-off against the sawab I try to earn by some good deeds. It’s like spending some coupons of sawab for availing the small pleasures of life). But on one occasion M.F.Husain had painted six nude goddesses in one sitting and then rubbed off them all towards the end of the session. One just doesn’t not know, what was on his mind? The secular connoisseurs of art must have been appalled at seeing the six original works of Husain going in a jiffy, but, on the face of it, from Muslim point of view, it was like committing a sin in the morning and repenting for the same in the evening.

      A Muslim country like Qatar giving him nationality is not a matter of surprise. Any other Muslim country would have done that. Contrary to popular Hindu-Christian perception, Islam can tolerate any degree of sins committed by its followers (even theoretically, because till the last moment of one’s life, complete redemption is possible). Even if a person leaves the fold of Islam and becomes a renegade, Muslims in general have little to do with him/her. It’s only when the renegade starts celebrating his act and ridiculing Islam that retribution starts (I shall be coming to this topic on the general treatment of renegades in Islam, in future, Insha Allah). 

      The plight of Hussain in India makes an interestingly complex story. I have little comments on it. This is a problem of the Hindus, for the Hindus and by the Hindus. What the hell can a Muslim do about it, including M.F. Hussain?

      The case of Taslima Nasreen is as different from M.F. Hussain’s  as it is from Shahrukh Khan’s. I just don’t understand why this Taslima Nasreen crops-us every now and then? Is she at par with Hussain or Shahrukh Khan as an artist? What absolute rubbish! I have my serious objections to Salman Rushdie but even as writer, can Taslima Nasreen be bracketed with Rushdie, which is so often done. Can you compare an elephant with a rat because both look equally black? Have heart, and more than heart, have sense! Taslima is nothing as a writer, so what is she left with? A cheap gimmick, that’s all. Taslima’s only problem now is, her inability to find a man even in India (I have her writings to prove it).

      But yes Shahrukh Khan’s is the case. Why do you think he has purchased a house in Dubai? In the past few years Shahrukh has already started treading on the tightrope. Shahrukh is here because of his choosing. One more small push of his viewpoint from his side, and he will be seen hurtling out of the Indian sky.


      By Manzurul Haque -



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