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Month: January 2015

Freedom of speech, Charlie Hebdo, PK and Love Charzer

Too uncool to deserve freedom of expression??
Too uncool to deserve freedom of expression??

Most of the good people I know lampooned the Hindu fringe taking offence to PK, vandalizing theaters and calling for a ban. Of course if a film maker wants to say something, he cannot be stopped just because someone’s feelings will be hurt.

A lot of them supported Charlie Hebdo on the cartoons though quite a few of them felt squeamish about the follow up decision to print prophet cartoons on 3 million copies. Why provoke, they said, France doesn’t allow burkas and none of the countries siding with Charlie Hebdo gave unfettered freedom of expression. They also cited criminalization of holocaust denial and several other cases of journalists being imprisoned for seditious expression. Freedom of expression cannot be absolute. You cannot be allowed to hurt, they said.

And now, Pope Francis says freedom of speech cannot be absolute. Two things – a) Anyone who derives his position of privilege from a holy cow would want the holy cow to remain holy (Agreed, an ad hominem attack!), and, b) Saying freedom of speech is not absolute is more of a motherhood statement – true but carrying little meaning.

Of course you cannot incite murder and claim freedom of speech. Of course, nation states cannot allow sedition under freedom of speech. Of course, freedom of speech cannot be absolute. That is the wrong question.

The right question would be whether freedom to criticize a religion can be absolute. Note that the freedom to question a belief is just a less evolved form of freedom to insult a belief because insult lies in the eyes of the insulted and even a surface level questioning of my beliefs can insult me – how will you decide what constitutes legit insult.

If you allow questioning, you have to allow insulting. Once upon a time, people did believe in a flat earth and it insulted their beliefs to suggest otherwise.

Narrowing the focus onto religions, when Jesus can be printed on undergarments or when Shiva can be shown hiding in a toilet or under the chair without apocalypse breaking out, it probably means religions can take some unapologetic even brutal questioning, and by extension, insults.

But what really got my goat was that no body cringed when MSG, the Messenger of God was canned by censors citing potential offence to people’s feelings!

Now, to be sure, I don’t get my love charged at Baba Ram Rahim’s rock concerts (check it out on a bad day at office, good for a couple laughs) and neither do I go to him for spiritual solace or material success. Moreover, the only Baba I ever revered is the long deceased DesiBaba, peace be upon him. But, just about nobody seems to give a rat’s bum about MSG’s freedom of expression.

Is Baba Ram Rahim Insan too infra dig? Does freedom of speech of only cool people matter?

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