Religion is just an excuse

The Hindu

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Okay, I was offended.

There, I said it.

It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders just saying that out loud because the whole world seems to think otherwise. And it makes me feel like some hardcore fundamentalist to get all offended over a movie. But that’s the whole truth.

I am a Muslim, a very proud Muslim, in fact. I practise my religion. But I keep it to myself. I believe in it wholeheartedly but I do not thrust it on other people. I pray five times a day but I don’t go around exhibiting it. I fast all 30 days of the Ramadan, of which others wouldn’t have the slightest inkling.

I believe in beliefs. My beliefs are personal. So are yours.

I was born and brought up in Chennai, in a conservative society overpopulated by Hindus with an assortment of Jains, Muslims and Christians. But I never felt even for a second that I was a minority living in a sea of majority. Hindus would land up in our houses for delicious biryani during festivals. We would attend the Sunday mass just to hear the Father praise the Lord. I would accompany my friend to the temple and watch her do 108 rounds. That was my land. All were one.

But the days during the Vishwaroopam controversy have been a whirlwind.

It has literally pulled the earth from under one man, a superstar in his own right, a man who always went against the system and stood by his bold beliefs, yet might not have expected such a huge uproar of his dream project.

It has baffled an entire State, garnered support from unexpected territories, led to politicians seizing the golden opportunity to turn every catastrophe into a vote-bank and, of course, brought up communal feelings.

So I decided to watch the movie, to find out what all the uproar was about.

It was perfect. There was action, romance, mystery, edge-of-the-seat moments and some splendid display of acting skills. And then there were also killing, bloodshed, missing body parts and torsos strewn apart.

Maybe, I’m too old-school.

Maybe, I shouldn’t have been offended when a verse from my daily prayer was read out before a man was publicly hanged in an Islamic country. Maybe, I shouldn’t have been offended when a phrase I mutter a zillion times is echoed loud in a videotaped beheading of an American soldier. Maybe, I shouldn’t have been offended that all terrorists were depicted as Muslims.

Maybe, I shouldn’t.

But since when did we stop calling a spade a spade?

How else would you portray terrorism if not like this?

In the name of God, planes were plunged into buildings, hotels held hostage, railway stations became firing arenas, bomb blasts became a common thing and the long list of suicide bombers was bottomless.

So because of one small fraction of society, a whole community had to suffer. From rejected visas to embarrassing underwear checks at airport immigration, banning of the burqa to being refused houses, it was the common man who suffered. Oh and yes, terrorists were henceforth stereotyped to one religion even though we have proof otherwise. Even when a Norway madman shot 69 unsuspecting people on an island claiming his hope to oust Muslims from the country, the stereotype didn’t change.

So let’s not blame the moviemaker. For, he is just telling us a story, his side of the story. Whether fact or fiction, it does not really matter because a movie is after all just a goddamn movie. And if you need to blame someone, then blame the fundamentalists with the wrong notions in their heads. Blame the men who trained young boys that they could reach heavenly bliss by becoming suicide bombers. Blame the ruthless minds that planned attacks to eradicate an entire country with a single button. Blame the people who are too unstable to live life that they shoot down kindergarten kids in schools across a country that gives its citizens the freedom to carry arms. Blame the people who waged wars on other countries under false pretexts.

Religion is just an excuse.


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