1. My Rebuttal to Myths of Modern Islam comments
2. Film opens Indian eyes to life in Pakistan
3. The myth of moderate Islam by Tavleen Singh
[( Rebuttal to Myths of Modern Islam )]
In Sunday's Indian Express, Tavleen Singh wrote the review for Khuda Ke Liye and has made a few wrong judgment calls. I am pleased to do a rebuttal.
My reaction would have been similar to Tavleen Singh’s, when the Pakistani hero tells his girl friend that “we built Taj Mahal”. We who, would have been my reaction too. The prejudices she has observed are well expressed. As Indians we are sensitive to what the Pakistanis say and I am sure the vice versa is true. The movie has to play it up too to arouse the sentiments of the audience. Then I am surprised at her conclusion “the film was that in seeking to show Islam in a good light, it accidentally exposes the prejudices that make moderate Muslims the ideological partners of Jihadis”. Since when did we start drawing conclusions based on a movie?
Tavleen Singh states that Moderation is in short supply among Muslims? In fact that is the only thing in abundance with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or any one for that matter. Most are moderate people and they go on about their daily responsibilities of earning a living and taking care of their families. They do not wear their religion on their sleeves; one may know some one is Muslim or a Hindu, but they don’t wear a neon sign.
In Dallas, we are about 80,000 Indians and our Association’s membership is about 1+% - We are about 75,000 Hindus, but you will not find 2% of the Hindus on any given Sunday at the temple, same goes with the Muslims or Christians. You are always looking for the volunteers and you find the same faces over and over again in every place. A majority of the people do not want to be tied up with the politics, religion or even civic affairs. They mind their own lives. About 9/10th of a percent of people are worriers like you and I, worried about what the 1/10th extremists will do. The 99% cares less.
The majority of any group is moderate, they are plenty in numbers and you never see them in any broils or Hangamas. For a good movie, you see a lot more of Desis than you would see them at the place of worship; religious movies are seen by far fewer people, when Khuda Ke Liye was shown at Fun Asia, the turn out was very low, even the Pakistanis did not come to see Khuda Ke Liye, they went to Om Shanti instead. The number gets bigger if it is a Bollywood entertainment extravaganza.
Look at the Election results of Pakistan, whom did the people vote? Not the religious parties. Out of 336 Seats in the assembly only 6 went to the religious parties and 330 to the secular ones. 2.2% v 97.8%.
Tavleen Singh needs to study more before she draws the conclusions.
She fails to mention the 10 minutes of critical dialogue where Naseeruddin Shah challenges the traditionalists, some thing that compares to the Brahmins washing the water faucet several times after a non-Brahmin has collected water from the public tap. Neither was religious, but practiced regardless. As a Journalist one has to tell the story that people can relate, it is just not what others do that is weird; we do it too in our own unique way.
She is iffy “If 'moderate' Muslims believe that the West is the real enemy of Islam” She can keep that to herself, because she does not understand who the moderates are. Like the movies, she must be running into only those people who are not moderates and they are just a few. Look at your own group, any group, Caucasian, African Americans, Latinos, Chinese, Hindus or Muslims – go for a sample of 100, you will find only one or two bullies in such a small sample.
The world is run by extremists and bullies while the moderates silently endure. It is time to get the moderates activated and assertive for the good of humankind. It is also time for the Tavleen Singhs of the world to think before they have their runs on the key boards.
Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. His comments, news analysis, opinions and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website http://www.mikeghouse.net/. He can be reached at mailto:MikeGhouse@gmail.comor (214) 325-1916
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Landmark film opens Indian eyes to life in Pakistan
By Amelia Gentleman
Published: April 11, 2008
NEW DELHI: Of all the flattering headlines that greeted the release last week of the first Pakistani film to be shown in India in four decades, one stuck in the mind of the director Shoaib Mansoor.
"We didn't know that Pakistan had such good houses," the headline went, Mansoor recalled in an interview in Delhi.
It was a striking reminder of how little people in India know about the way their immediate neighbors across the border live.
For the past 43 years no Pakistan-made film had been distributed commercially to cinemas in India until Mansoor's "Khuda Kay Liye" ("In the Name of God") premiered here April 4 - a fact that has contributed to widespread ignorance in India about modern Pakistan.
This week, Indian filmgoers were offered a rare glimpse of life on the other side, the architecture, the unfamiliar landscape, the homes and the lifestyles. The film provided an unusual opportunity for audiences here to peer into the lives of middle-class Muslims in Pakistan, a country geographically close, but set apart by such entrenched political hostility that very few Indians have ever visited it.
The release of Mansoor's film (which broke all box-office records when it came out in Pakistan last year) was hailed here as a significant moment in the slow-motion Indo-Pakistan peace process.
An official ban was imposed by the Pakistan government on the distribution and broadcast of Indian movies, after the war between the two countries in 1965 (one of three wars fought between the two nations since the region was split by Partition in 1947). No formal reciprocal order was made by India, but initial political hostility to the idea of showing Pakistani films was superseded in later years by commercial considerations. In the second half of the 20th century, the Pakistani film industry (Lollywood) slipped into severe decline and produced nothing meriting distribution in India, (which is well-served by its own film industry).
Despite the ban, pirated, illegal copies of all the Bollywood hits have always been hugely popular in Pakistan. And in 2006, amid improving political ties, the Pakistan government gradually began to relax its approach, allowing a limited number of Indian films to be screened in cinemas legally.
The effect has been a cultural two-way mirror dividing the two countries, with Pakistan able to observe India (or a glitzier Bollywood version of India), but with Indians unable to see beyond its frontiers.
"Indian films never stopped coming to Pakistan, on DVDs," Mansoor said. "So every Pakistani is absolutely clear about the way of life in India, about how everything works in India. But there is nothing coming in the other direction, with the result that India has very clear misconceptions about Pakistan."
His film was edited in Delhi, where he was, he said, "shocked by the ignorance" of Indian colleagues in the cutting room. "They had very surprising ideas about Pakistan. They asked 'Do you have taxis there?' 'Can women drive?' 'Are women allowed to go to university?' They thought Pakistan consisted entirely of fanatics and mullahs.
"The opening of films between India and Pakistan will really help people know each other. These films will help these misconceptions to go away. People here will start seeing Pakistan as it really is."
Aside from their incidental curiosity at the unexpected beauty of Pakistani houses, filmgoers and reviewers have also been struck by the insight offered by the film into the difficulties of being a liberal Muslim in Pakistan after 9/11.
The film, which won the Silver Pyramid Award at the Cairo International Festival in 2007, shows two brothers, both talented musicians, living in Lahore, growing apart as they embrace different readings of Islam. One is brainwashed by the local mullah, abandons his Sufi rock group and his rich, liberal parents in their beautifully decorated home, and heads off to join the Taliban. The other leaves Pakistan to study music in Chicago, where he falls in love with America and marries an American before being arrested and subjected to Abu Ghraib-style torture by officials who are suspicious of his Muslim background, erroneously convinced that he played a role in the planning of the 9/11 attacks.
"That is the tragedy that a Muslim faces in these days," Mansoor said. "We are beaten up by fundamentalists, with the label that we are too Western, and when we go out of the country, we are labeled as fundamentalists just because we have Pakistani names."
The acting is patchy, but beneath the numerous plotlines, Mansoor successfully rams home his point: "All Muslims are not terrorists."
"People need to understand that Pakistanis are not all rabid fundamentalists."
He has been pleased by the response in India. "People clapped here at the same places people clapped in Pakistan. That's a good sign."
The Indian film critic Subhash K Jha, said it was a film everyone in India should see "to understand the isolation, to understand what it feels like to be deemed a terrorist, to be frisked extra hard, the pain and the humiliation."
"I don't think that is easy to understand as a Hindu." But he warned that the film would not have obvious appeal to most Indian viewers. "Sadly, not too many people will be interested to see a film that reveals life as a Muslim, so its impact will be rather restrained. It is not a pot-boiler, it doesn't have the audience-pulling big stars, it doesn't have any item numbers."
The Bollywood scriptwriter Javed Akhtar described it as a "very bold and honest film."
"Ignorance breeds suspicion and suspicion breeds hate, it creates huge villains," he said. "There is a lot to be heard and seen by Indian and by U.S. audiences here too."
The Indian certification board recommended a couple of cuts before approving the film for release (removing a reference to Muslims being killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir), but Shailendra Singh, managing director of Percept Pictures, the firm responsible for distributing the film, said the process of bringing the film to India had been surprisingly easy, and the initial box office response encouraging. He said he thought the film, which cost $1.5 million to make, would recoup $2.5 million over the next three months in India.
"We felt like we were being part of history," he said.
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The myth of moderate Islam by Tavleen Singh in Indian Express.
Tavleen Singh Posted online: Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 2316 hrs IST This is not a column that discusses cinema, but this week I make an exception because of a film I have just seen, which inadvertently exposes the myth of 'moderate' Islam. I went to see Khuda Kay Liye not just because it is the first Pakistani film to be released in Indian cinemas since anyone can remember, but because I gathered from reviews that it was a reflection of moderate Islam. This is a commodity in short supply in the subcontinent as well as across the Islamic world, where supposedly moderate Islamic countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have transformed in recent times into places where women have exchanged mini-skirts and western influence for the hijab and a return to medieval Arabia.
Khuda Kay Liye is the story of a modern Pakistani family that is destroyed when one musician son ends up in the clutches of a bad mullah and the other ends up in an American prison cell, where he is tortured till he loses his mind. The Islamist son, under the influence of the evil maulana, coerces his London-bred cousin into a marriage she does not want and forces her to live in a primitive Afghan village so she cannot escape. He rapes her because the maulana instructs him to and gives up his musical career because the maulana tells him that the Prophet of Islam did not like music. And he becomes an involuntary mujahid after 9/11, fighting on the side of the Taliban government. This is a simple story of a young man misled in the name of Islam.
The other musician son's story is more revealing of the flaws of what we like to call 'moderate' Islam. He goes to study music in a college in Chicago, falls in love with a white girl, and generally has a good time living the American dream until 9/11 happens. Then he is arrested, locked up in a secret prison in the United States and kept naked in a filthy cell until he goes mad. The message of the film, in its essence, is that Islam is a great religion that has been misunderstood and that the United States is a bad, bad country and all talk of freedom and democracy is nonsense.
Alas, this is not how we infidels see things. What interested me most about the film was that in seeking to show Islam in a good light, it accidentally exposes the prejudices that make moderate Muslims the ideological partners of jihadis. In painting America as the villain of our times, the prejudices against the West that get exposed are no different from what Mohammad Siddique, one of London's tube bombers, said in the suicide video he made before blowing himself up. In the video, that surfaced during the trial now on in London, he describes himself as a soldier in the war against the West: 'I'm doing what I am for Islam, not, you know, for materialistic or worldly benefits.'
In Khuda Kay Liye, the prejudices against India come through as well. The hero, when he lands in Chicago, finds that his future wife does not know that Pakistan is a country. When he tries to explain where it is geographically, he mentions Iran, Afghanistan and China before coming to India.
It happens that India is the only country she knows and Taj Mahal the only Indian monument she has heard of. 'We built it,' says our hero, 'we ruled India for a thousand years and Spain for 800.' As an Indian, my question is: who is we? Those who left for Pakistan or the 180 million Muslims who still live in India? If we pursue this 'we' nonsense, we must urge the Indian Government to bring back Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and Taxila. And that is only the short list.
Let us not pretend that Muslims in India do not face hostility and prejudice. They do. But some of it comes from this idea that Muslims have of themselves as being superior because they 'ruled India' for a thousand years. The problem becomes more complex if you remember that Hindu fanatics also see Muslims as foreigners and use it to fuel their hatred.
If 'moderate' Muslims believe that the West is the real enemy of Islam and that the free societies of modern times compare poorly with the greatness of Muslim rule in earlier times, then there is little difference between them and the jihadis. As we infidels see it, the problem is that Islam refuses to accept that in the 21st century there is no room for religion—any religion—in the public square. Other religions have accepted this and retreated to a more private space. Islam has not. ***