When art crosses all limits

Greater Kashmir

Writing against Islam gets them fame and name. That’s why they do it, Abid Ahmad  comments on Tasleema Nasreen controversy.
 The banishment of the controversial (not celebrated as the mainstream media of India would have us believe) Bangladeshi writer Tasleema Nasreen from the West Bengal has again propped up the question of the limits of expressions in Islam, and also in a country which claims to be secular to the core. But more than that, the issue has reinforced the importance of realizing the fact that India, in the spectrum of the countries in the world, is not simply a secular but also the most communal country in the world where religious identity subsumes all other identities.
 Tasleema Nasreen issue is fundamentally that of creativity and art and its absolutism or the otherwise. But how can we expect modern art to be apolitical when it mostly talks about politics. Art and creativity has always been without bounds. It is said that Iqbal, the foremost ideologue of Islam in the modern history, had once prescribed the topic of art being limitless to the students of Aligarh Muslim University. But this limit exists only in the artistic domain, not in public domain. No doubt, some amount of disgruntlement and intolerance arising out of powerlessness and the consequent desperation has given rise to serious flaws to Muslim understanding and has created a sort of crisis in the Muslim mind. But what do these writers do to subside it, they simply instigate it to turn violent so that they are proven right.
 As compared to the modern critics of Islam and their crude approach of understanding a religion that goes even beyond metaphysics, the thinkers in the medieval Muslim history when the creativity was at is best, were more profoundly critical of some of the issues that arise out of interpreting the basic texts of Islam. But theirs was a genuine intellectual pursuit. Then, there was no Nobel prize, no Booker prize and no fame that it begets and no sensation driven media that has only mouth and no brains. Today’s creativity arises more out of these considerations.
 The mainstream media in India is abuzz with the debates on the question of what next over the issue of Tasleema Nasreen. The lines are blurred, as, in principle, the Congress, the BJP and the Left agree on the single point of accommodating Tasleema Nasreen in the country. For them it is good for the flourishing of creativity and art. BJP has been in the avant-garde of the campaign of providing asylum and even granting citizenship to Tasleema Nasreen. But, on the other hand, the party wants Dr Farooq Abdullah to be tried for his remarks on J&K’s accession to Indian domain. Here, freedom cannot be absolute.
 Yes, Indian government should accede to Muslim resentment and deport Tasleema. After all it is the same country where they want to hang a poorly trialed person because that is what ‘the collective conscience of the nation’ asks for. BJP has never given a damn to the rehabilitation of Gujarati Muslims who continue to suffer in their own country after being displaced in 2002 ‘when vegetarians roasted humans,’ but wants guest treatment and even the granting of citizenship to Tasleema Nasreen, a foreigner, simply for her outrage against Islam.
 Every great scholar who has contributed anything substantial to Islam in particular has been critical at one point or the other in his formative years. From Imam Ashari to Imam Gazzali, Moatazila school of Thought or Ibni Seena and more recently, Ghalib and Iqbal, all have raised certain profound questions which none has ever been able to answer. But the inquisitiveness was more out of their intellectual urge to satisfy their inner itch born out of profound knowledge and scholarship and that too within the broad constraints that would balance the inquisitiveness. But what we find here is crass and ignorant fume towards a particular religion because it gets name, fame and wealth.

(Aabid Ahmad is working as Editor in JK Academy of Art, Culture and Languages)