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Azam prevailed, Akhilesh refused to oblige Rushdie

Lucknow: Even before the UP government was sworn into office, an imminent danger was lurking, as the chief minister-designate, Akhilesh Yadav, was supposedly to attend the much hyped India Today conclave in New Delhi on 16 March along with Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s presence was kept under warps till the eve of the function when it was broken to the media. The CM’s oath ceremony was officially on 15 March. Akhilesh in his first press conference as CM announced that he would not attend the conclave.

A day before he took oath, Muhammed Azam Khan not only sensed the intended ridicule of the Congress government but also the lurking damage which would have been enough to send shock waves in Samajwadi Party circles and also across the whole nation as SP had come to power on wings of the Muslim votes.

Azam Khan had been one of the most vocal opponents of Salman Rushdie since his notorious book Satanic Verses had first hit the markets in 1988. For him, Salman Rushdie’s cardinal sin could never be forgotten or pardoned. “The proposed participation of Salman Rushdie in the India Today Conclave was a deliberate attempt by the Congress to denigrate and provoke Muslims. The refusal at Jaipur Literary Festival and a ready invitation at New Delhi was primarily due to concern for votes and not for Muslim sentiments. The visit would prove suicidal for Congress in 2014. Muslims are now fortunately aware of the Congress attitude and its real policies in the last six decades,” said Azam Khan. He elaborated on the politics of this conclave which has been in fact a platform to lampoon Islamic ideals in the past too. He said that the conclave has been a platform for Islam-bashing as Irshad Manjhi, a Zionist lesbian nonentity had previously been invited and she was made to specifically sit alongside Mahmood Madni of Jamiat-Ulama-e-Hind, an MP. “The seating arrangement made sure Muslims were doubly insulted” he added.

Irshad Manjhi, whose only claim to fame is her “book”, The Trouble with Islam Today which is claimed to have been published in more than 30 languages as part of a grand plan to malign Islam and Muslims the world over, and this is now a new phenomenon. In fact, the promotion of the likes of Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen and Irshad Manji are just a continuation of an exercise which was kick-started at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church a few centuries back, and the first of its kind was Dante, who wrote the Divine Comedy. The problem lies in the politicisation of such writings and the dissemination of information when even a small event can make headlines all over the world.

Britishers, who have tutored the whole world the theory of freedom of expression, are the first to arrest anyone who dares to write or speak anything ill against Jesus Christ (which of course is good). And likewise, in Britain it would always be extremely hard to swallow if any aspersion is to be cast on the Holocaust. But for anyone to lampoon Prophet Muhammed, British laws condone it, and is it not the same coward Rushdie who was eager to do anything for an out of court settlement with Indira Gandhi when she threatened to sue him over a passage in Midnights Chidlren.

India, under the British, had its own experience with such writers. Swami Shraddhanand of Arya Samaj, who was once welcomed to address Muslims from the ramparts of the Jama Masjid Delhi, but after the failure of the Khilafat Movement had started his Shuddi Movement (re-conversion) to invite Muslims back into the Hindu fold, and as part of this movement, he became a writer of many provocative treatises which were brazenly anti-Islam. He was done to death by one Abdul Rashid who is buried in Delhi. Lala Nanakchand of Arya Samaj also met the same fate. Mahashay Rajpal, the writer of a blasphemous book against Prophet Muhammad was killed by Ilmuddin, whose burial place is in Lahore. Nathuramal Sharma was daringly killed in the presence of a Judicial Commissioner of Sind by Abdul Qaiyyoom for writing a derogatory pamphlet on the history of Islam. But today after an experience of 65 years of independent India, it can be said that all such writings were in fact a part of the great British game as all such efforts ceased after 1947 and also the manner in which these persons met their destinies is history. It helped to halt any such audacious steps in the future. Dr. Ambedkar in his highly acclaimed book “Pakistan or Partition of India” discussed all such killings though not in extensive detail but with particular reference to the politics of MK Gandhi.

Rushdie poured out his banal ranting on Imran Khan of Pakistan, who declined to attend the conclave like Akhilesh Yadav and Omar Abdulla etc. But who can deny that he is always running for security cover these past two decades. Some of his publishers who fancied his books and published them in other languages, have already tasted death or have faced threats to their lives.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2012 on page no. 9

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