I strongly disagree with Dr. Subramanian Swamy's views on Muslims he expressed recently in a prominent newspaper. And if chance should have it that I meet him, I would invite him to my humble home for a cup of tea. And if the ambience is just right, we might end up discussing Mark Twain and Wodehouse. For, I am a Muslim and though deeply hurt by his views, I am required by every strand of morality and justice in me to stand for his right to express his views, however unreasonable.

I believe that we Muslims are being taken for a ride by some of these “minority bodies” when they call for the arrest of a senior statesman for our benefit. How can arresting him improve even an iota of our conditions? Whatever he said is out there and the only sensible thing to do now would be to have healthy debates on his views and expose how catastrophic it would be if his ideas were ever to see the light of day. Many senior politicians and academicians have already expressed their dissent.

Whenever Islam or Muslims are criticised, ridiculed or insulted, a very minuscule segment of society gives the call to take up arms and to let all hell loose. And that is a six-course meal for the news and media circus. From books and cartoons to blogs and tweets, every form of the media has been used by various individuals and groups to ridicule, criticise or question Muslim beliefs and lifestyle. And what has been our response? We have asked for the banning of books, expulsion of writers, and the closure of embassies. And the sad thing is that many of these demands have been met. We forget that this paints us as weak, intolerant, boring and an uncreative lot, which we are not.

Muslims have come a long way and for every Satanic Verse hurled at us, we have within our community talented writers, artists and actors more than capable of expressing the other side of the story in the most creative manner. Our history is replete with anecdotes where insults and mudslinging have been met with the highest levels of tolerance and creativity. We have every right to be angry when we are hurt by the expressions of some of the most insensitive individuals around us. But picketing, fatwas and call to violence are not the approach of a mature society. Where we have a chance to play the better role, we should play it. Where we have a chance to show our tolerance of nonsense, we must show it. And when it comes to vulgarity and obscenity, it is sure to offend all individuals irrespective of race and creed and it is in solidarity with them that we should take steps to curb or downplay the significance of such elements in society.

Let it not be misconstrued that I am hereby advocating an eye for an eye policy. Rather, I am advocating that we draw a bigger circle to include those who are seeking ways to expel us from their very small and misinformed circles. Give writers and artists the freedom to criticise and question every fibre of our society and beliefs, for we have acquired that level of maturity that we can stand up to any amount of criticism. As for those elements merely seeking to sow the seeds of discord and conflict between communities by raising non-issues and brandishing vulgarities, let us educate the masses so as to render their efforts futile. The only role such elements would have in shaping our history and future is the one we accord them. Let us be generous and record their failures in attempting to create schisms in a progressive society of all creeds.

Freedom of expression is of paramount importance. How else would certain politicians exert their inalienable right to make a complete fool of themselves?

(The writer's email is: rajiraouf@gmail.com)

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