Monday, July 19, 2010

[Debate] Freedom of speech vs Mawdudi Book ban - Exchange with Roy Brown

Dear Roy,
I have been reading this obviously incendiary thread with interest, and while opinions seems to vary with some not entirely happy with the banning of the book - and your re-think/correction to earlier stance notwithstanding : without getting into the merits or demerits of the Bangladesh Government decision, what does strike me as shocking is the timing of it all. I mean why now? If Mawdudi's book is/was - that very powerful to incite people to violence, how is it that the authorities in Dhaka took a few decades to enact this ban? What was it that caused them to wake up from slumber - or is this delayed trajectory of a wake-up call, a 'feel good exercise at fighting Fun-da-Mentalism' if we may?
My fear is, the ban is part of a larger agenda of covert pro-Jamaat elements within the Government of the day to: on the one hand earn cheap kudos and applause's from us obsessed and so-called 'progressive,secular,liberal' (have I missed out any!) section of the society, and on the other - to co-opt and feed on the Jamaat's intense penchant for megalomania - essentially to be in the news, to be of potent currency - when the reality is, had it not been for our continued failures they would have been by now, consigned to the trash can of history? As I have often argued without luck - more than us-versus-them, WE as a body here are contributing to Jamaat's survival and undue relevance and I can vouch for it that the bigots are having the last laugh all at our expense. Rest assured, we will be kept reactive, restless, listless and divided in the days ahead - period.
Historically anything that is banned generates curiosity and I will not be surprised that Mawdudi's books will hence be the next 'cause celebre reading' in Bangladesh and rest of the world - and that I assure you will not be limited only to the cap and habit wearing Mullahs in Mosques and Madrasas.
In retrospect the rise of the religious ultra-right wing in Bangladesh can be traced back to their demand for banning of Taslima Nasreen books/works - so what we have inherited as a legacy since, is an uneven confrontation when we are expected to fight Jamaat without having done our homework, with our eyes wilfully blindfolded and our wrist leashed firmly behind our back. Add to that our collective ignorance at not recognising the existent potent forces within our heritage, specially those in our folklore culture - that have strongly resisted and have always won for centuries in the struggle against the Shariati/Wahabist/Salafist brand of Islam perpetrated as 'mainstream-Islam' - without much noise, fanfare or media overkill. Designated by the 'educated elite' as a 'marginalised subordinate culture' - enlightened elements there thankfully do not have the luxury to sing/debate their glory in the comfort of their bedroom Net connection! I am therefore constrained to have to point out that all of us by default are making Mawdudi and Jamaat more 'popular' here then they really are. Shadow Boxing?
I strongly disagree that books alone provoke people to be radicalised and leads them to violence. More so often than not, the violent images shown on lopsided and biased TV news, Hollywood/Bollywood movies, serials are the ones that contribute to radicalism - and it is not surprising that many Al-Qaeda detenus post 09/11 have admitted to 'learning tactics from TV'. What may or may not provoke me or you into violence, may or may not on the flip side - guarantee that the next bomb set to explode may or may not be outside our homes or any area we have mentally marked 'safe'. There are no black or white equation on safety and security, no easy answers available, and all we can do is mark time on our own space and hope that our ignominy at being 'X-Ray stripped searched' at airports are mere aberrations and not an intrusion of our privacy - all on the premise that 'it is better to be safe than to be sorry'. Sure we may or may not be carrying hidden weapons - but in all honesty and decency is anybody quite prepared to brandish their 'privates' in public to satiates anybody's misplaced sense of security, simply because we look like, or have one of those queer sounding names - which some of the terrorists usually have?
For now, no one is talking about the damage these X-Ray machines do to our health, our systems - indeed our entire physical being - and for all I care, fatality rates from X-Rays tabulated for a future date - for all practical purposes - may be higher or equal to what the real or imagined terrorist could have possibly inflicted?
In conclusion - more than banning any book, I think it is time we ban our intolerance and collectively call on all Government heads still believing firmly in the Bushonian 'war or terror' to seek redress of their fear psychosis by visiting shrinks!
Kind regards
London, 19th July 2010


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