Toronto District School Board has vetoed a student book event with Nobel peace prize laureate Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. They're worried The Last Girl, her memoir about being sexually enslaved by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists, would spread Islamophobia. This is how civil societies set an example before ordinary citizens everywhere, including India.
Kangana Ranaut's statement, “India got Independence in 2014”, rightly invited censure and demands of her arrest because that is seditious. We must remember Gandhi and Nehru aren't any Hindu Gods for the people to insult them. Freedom of speech is asking "Did India get freedom in 1947? Are Muslims, Dalits and women really free?" or sloganeering Bharat Tere Tukde Honge Inshallah Inshallah or abusing Modi, RSS and BJP. A well-defined demarcation between Freedom of Expression (FOE) and “abuse” defines the foundations of civil society.
Foisting the Khalistan flag on Red Fort during Republic Day expresses farmers' legitimate anger against an oppressive government. Hanging a blasphemy accused at the Singhu border too is Freedom of expression. But vicious social media campaigns against Halal or Ad films depicting religious harmony must be called out for bigotry and divisive agenda of Brahminical patriarchy.
Like the stand-up comedian, Vir Das said, “There are two Indias”. One India where Greta Thunberg and Mia Khalifa can interfere with internal affairs of India as part of their FOE. Then there’s another India where Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar make pro-India statements. That’s clearly abuse. A beautiful India where our cricketers take “the knee” in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. And the ugly India where Hindu fanatics demand justice for Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Lutyens Delhi is the best example of an ideal civil society or beautiful India. It leads by example, performing India’s dual role of “conscience keeper” and “moral compass”. It defines the “Idea of India”, also known as “Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb”. We must understand that two incidents of mobs killing two people cannot be treated similarly. The death of Tabraiz Ansari must be a month-long international outrage, and all Indians must hang their heads in shame. But the death of Ankit Sharma should not be discussed beyond six-lines, sixteenth-page news. The light thrown on incidents must pass through the “Post truth” prism of secularism.
Civil society must choose jargon and slogans meticulously. “Terror has no religion” must be kept handy, but we cannot allow that to cloud our reason when we debate “Hindutva Terror”. We can compare RSS to ISIS, and Boko Haram like Salman Khurshid did. But it’s extremely important to assert that ISIS and Boko Haram don't represent real Islam. There’re hundreds of terror outfits without religion, and then there’s RSS.
Mixing religion in food goes against the values that guard a modern civil society. Zomato told us, “Food has no religion” while asserting “We serve only Halal meat”. A shining example of a truly free civil society is Kerala. Fascist Hindutva forces tried imposing a ban on beef in Maharashtra. The animal-loving “civil society” volunteers slaughtered a calf in the middle of a road to save "rights enshrined in the Constitution”. The beauty of Kerala is that several Muslim participants politely refused to eat the meat served in the “beef festival” because it wasn't hygienic as in Halal. Hindus politely accepted the choice of Muslims.
Civil society must choose jargon and slogans meticulously. "Terror has no religion" must be kept handy, but we cannot allow that to cloud our reason when we debate "Hindutva Terror". We can compare RSS to ISIS, and Boko Haram like Salman Khurshid did. But it's extremely important to assert ISIS and Boko Haram don't represent real Islam. There're hundreds of terror outfits without religion, and then there's RSS
That was an old story. Currently, India in general and Kerala, in particular, is witnessing a dangerous trend. Sangh Pariwar has spearheaded a campaign against Halal. They have a “frivolous complaint” that Maulvis or cooks spit into the food to make it Halal. There are numerous videos of “Halal spitting” on social media. Fortunately, fact-checkers like Mohammed Zubair have declared that they're old videos and they are not spitting into COVID-19 relief materials as claimed by Sangh Pariwar. Thus, they have declared these videos are a hoax.
Life would've been impossible without fact-checkers and such protectors of civil society. Over the past two decades, the most peaceful minorities have asserted their preference for "Halal only" food. They've politely but firmly asked eateries to ensure only Halal food is served to all without discrimination. "We serve only Halal meat" boards and "Halal certificates" were displayed prominently in all hotels and restaurants. But due to the hateful Sangh Pariwar campaign against Halal, several eateries have been forced to remove Halal boards.
Thankfully, the Communist Government of Kerala stays firmly with civil liberties and choice. Red Brigade has formed a "Lal-Halal Unity" against hate. They have introduced Halal papad, Halal jaggery, Halal cinema and a lot many Halal things. Kerala has taken the lead in endorsing diversity. Civil society has come out in support of the “Right to spit” to counter the anti-Halal movement. They even have found a scientific study that suggests human spit protects us from lung cancer.
Not to be left behind, some Bollywood celebrities have promoted Halal love and Halal make-up, among several other Halal things. Liberals are asking, “What is wrong in Muslims asking for equality? They just want Halal for all because everyone must be equal.” The same liberal thought process has been applied by the Taliban when they declared, “Shariah for all”. Some “spit-fire” revolutionary thinkers believe India can have a “Common Civil Code” by adopting Shariah.
A truly secular, democratic, plural and tolerant civil society cannot harbour Islamophobia. It must support the human rights of terrorists. Anything un-Islamic is uncivil. Thus, everything Islamic is civil. Hence civil society means Islamic society. That is why liberals have so much of Islamophilia or love for Islamists.