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Old 01-27-2006, 12:01 AM   #1
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Another Wrapup of Religious Intollerence

Over the Sikhs who effectively shut down the production of Behzti in 2004
Are people unable these days simply to walk away from a piece of art they dislike? Should religious bureaucracies be exempt from criticism or ridicule, on the grounds that any questioning of human behaviour is equivalent to criticism of the religion itself? Was the violence about perceived religious offence, or was it really about politics and power? Was there a lack of political will, due to ‘cultural sensitivity’ in Birmingham city council, to ensure that bullying must not be allowed to succeed over law and order? When will we ever debate the prejudices within and between ethnic minority communities? Is ‘identity’ merely about discovering and accepting conventional orthodoxy? Or do reason and choice play a part?

The playwright has since had to have police protection and I gather that her nearest and dearest have had to endure intolerable pressures. Should we now continue to be tolerant of intolerance, or should we call (as I now do) for more voices, from any race, gender, creed, sexual or political orientation, to speak out in support of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s right to create a play like Behzti , ironically a profoundly moral drama? Or will we be typically British about this and similar instances, sweep the facts under the proverbial carpet so as not to inflame sections of religious groups, and hope that any problem will simply go away?

Not restricted to any group, give belivers an inch in believing that they have a right not to be criticised and they take the proverbial mile.

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Old 01-27-2006, 12:49 AM   #2
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I think we had discussed this. Infact I think ( not sure) I had started that thread. ( or may be Ant)

Cant remember where it is..

Religious Intolerance

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Old 01-27-2006, 08:00 AM   #3
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Originally posted by AcrobatMan
I think we had discussed this...
Looks like.

^ "Third World" culture? No such thing. Why would poverty be intrinsically connected to intolerance of particular aesthetic values? It isn't.

There are several passages in A_W's posted piece which strongly suggest that some distinctly nonreligious factors were involved here too.
complaints were also made that it was ‘unacceptable and insulting to all Sikhs to have a black man kissing a Sikh woman’
No, that's not in their scriptures, and intolerance of blacks was not something they learnt back in Punjab.
'The police can’t touch us, right, because they are too scared of us.’
Not a Sikh religious precept, but it is a boast common to hostile and aliented male youth everywhere, including the nonreligious variety.
‘The British Empire owes us Sikhs too much to meddle with us. Look what happened to Indira Gandhi when she tried.’
Yeah, and look at the 5000+ Sikhs slaughtered in anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after that happened. (Of course, it hadn't been for Indira's nasty penchant for cynically playing extremists off one another to secure control over restive minorities, the Amritsar massacre could likely have been avoided and her bodyguards--what was she thinking using Sikh bodyguards after that event?--would likely never have dreamed of assassinating her. But that's another story so...)
There were some in orange turbans – associated with support for a separate nation state for Sikhs.
Yes, wealthy Sikhs living abroad have long been key backers of Sikh separatist militants, who do not generally enjoy an enthusiastic following back home.
‘We will stop this white man’s theatre, you wait and see, we are organising and it will all kick off sooner than you may think.’
"White man's theatre" is a strange choice of words if the implied source of revulsion were wholly religious. I can say firsthand that Sikh movie rental shops, in India at least, generally push the same violent/sexy movies as all the others, so immoral content per se is not likely the issue; (perceived) humiliation of their community is, and it's interesting in this regard that the protesters chose to characterize that quality as "white man's." In this case I think you could argue that some of this readiness to associate "white" art with (perceived) humiliation was "imported". But the backdrop here wouldn't be fundie Sikh gurus preaching Holy War (they have no clergy anyway); it would be more generally the abrupt collapse of the Raj and its consequences for 10 million Sikhs and Hindus forced overnight out of Pakistan by Partition, a million of whom were butchered before they got to safety in India. This was a people who'd controlled much of what is now northern India and Pakistan only a century before, and the memory of that trauma runs deep. It's a perceived collective humiliation kinda thing, and we all know the sorts of perverse contortions of machismo and group "pride" that can give rise to.
Was the violence about perceived religious offence, or was it really about politics and power?
Exactly. "Sikh" identity entails all three of these plus more, and is not a straightforward function of their theology.

Does any of this change the obvious fact that religious intolerance proper was also involved here--no. Does it justify or commend British authorities looking the other way in the interests of granting "traditional" community "leaders" their autocracy, er, autonomy--no. (Though funnily enough, the Brits had a habit of doing just that to keep the wheels of petty fiefdom running smoothly all the waaayyy back in the Raj days, too...but again, I digress.) But boiling these kinds of complex collisions of cultural, religious, historic and social factors down to the reductionist cliche of It's All About the Fundies is a convenience that shortchanges everyone involved in the long run. It is all very well to talk about the liberating effects of protecting and promoting free exchange of criticism, but if the understanding of what it is that needs to be criticized is insufficient, you are likely to wind up shooting the wrong messenger at the wrong place at the wrong time--a mistake one cannot afford to make too often.

That took altogether too long. I think next time I shall resort to mockery and torrents of pointedly sarcastic religious hate speech instead.
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