In Praise and Defence of Blasphemy
I admit it. I love blasphemy. There! I said it. There is something within me that attracts me to it. The more blasphemous an idea, the more it challenges any establishment, especially religious ones, the more I like it.
I'm talking ideas that challenge Jesus' divinity; Mohammad's prophet-hood and talk freely of Shiva's drug addiction. Bring it on! Blasphemy, to me, is what makes the world progress. Thoughts that are drastically different from what others believe and feel, aah, they are the ones that truly force humanity forward.
Where would we be without the famous blasphemers Galileo and Copernicus. Even most religious figures--that can potentially be so hurt by it--were blasphemers in their day. Jesus and Moses were a threat to the established religion of the day as was Mohammad. Why, then are ideas, thoughts and their provocative expression so taboo? Hinduism had few taboos practiced as it once was. What happened?
Why do we need to protect God and divinity from people who say things about Her? Surely (if you believe in it) the being who created the universe and us needs no protection from mere ideas? How supremely arrogant is that? Can mortals truly protect God from the expressed ideas of other mortals. Does Lord Ganesha really care that his image showed up on toilet seat covers? He looks like a cool guy. Maybe he took it as a compliment. But we'll never know, will we? Hindus in the US protested against the purveyor of such sacrilegious merchandise, making them pull the seat covers from the market.
This was, of course, nothing compared to the furor over what was not one of Rushdie's best work (to me his worst is better than most writers' best but I digress) The Satanic Verses. It was a book for God's sake. Don't buy it, don't read it, if offends you. Protest even. But burning books and a death threat?
I know that people of the Diaspora sometimes take blasphemy more seriously than do our counterparts back in our countries of origin. If there is one thing that should (but often does not) open up someone's mind to new ideas, it should be traveling and living in other countries. Observing and living among people and environments that are totally different from your own should be a liberating experience.
Instead it sometimes creates fear, making them hold on harder to the past, grasping at the tangible aspects of their original culture and in the process making of it a poor facsimile. And since religion is such a crucial part of some lives any blasphemy against their faith becomes intolerable.
It was a personal journey of my own to arrive at a place where blasphemy has become such a cherished idea. Blasphemy to me is the domain of a different mind, of a brave person (or a foolish one) but someone who definitely swims against the tide. And that right, in an increasingly polarized and intolerant world, is precious to me.
I am tired of the "it hurts my religious sentiments" brigade. What the heck is a "religious sentiment?" If it is so fragile as to be hurt by someone saying or writing something, perhaps you should examine your religion and your sentiment. Perhaps indulge in some blasphemy yourself and feel the exhilaration of it.
Besides what about my sentiments then? Are they any less valid because there is no religion attached to it? My sentiments can be potentially hurt by the display of religion out there, by every church, mosque or temple I pass and by everyone who says "god bless you," when I sneeze. But to me (and others like me) these are the realities of life and living. This variety of religious stuff out there is what makes the experience of living so rich. And one such experience is blasphemy. It's a part of the world and life and has been since the very beginning when the first cave-woman looked at others prostrating themselves in front of a giant cactus and said, "you do know that's just one giant, prickly plant, don't you? I bet we can split it open, cook it up and make ourselves some soup." I wonder how they dealt with her.
Remember the old saying, 'sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words shall never hurt me'? Letting blasphemy, no matter how heinous or offensive, flourish, even under protest, can only take us forward.Of course, this doesn't endear me to most people whether they are Diasporic or not.
But my fellow Diaspora dwellers, we above all, should embrace blasphemy or protest such ideas with other ideas. We are the ones who decided to look beyond a certain wall to take a peek at the other side. We traveled beyond the seven seas just to see what lay there. In another time that act itself would have been blasphemy, causing some of us to lose our caste. Blasphemy is our tradition. Our birthright. Let us embrace it.
In Praise and Defence of Blasphemy
- » Published on May 08, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
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