Atanu Dey On India's Development

Hell and Censorship

News from Abroad

Gordon Dryden wrote with an update on the Hell billboards which I had written about here:

Hell Pizza

“Today, the New Zealand Council of Advertising Standards upheld, in part, a complaint against Hell billboards – with the photo of George W Bush, and saying “Even hell is too good for some bastards”.

“Its ruling (seriously) did not find anything wrong with the reference to George B in that context but felt that the term “some bastards” might be offensive to some people.”

I think that putting the word “bastards” on a billboard where one may inadvertently see it is perhaps a bit much. I would not consider it censorship. Censorship is when you are not allowed to express an opinion, an opinion that others who are not interested in knowing your opinion can well avoid. Take the case of this blogger.

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — An Egyptian blogger was convicted Thursday and sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Egypt’s president, sending a chill through fellow Internet writers who fear a government crackdown.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, was a vocal secularist and sharp critic of conservative Muslims in his blog. He also lashed out often at Al-Azhar — the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam — calling it “the university of terrorism” and accusing it of encouraging extremism.

[...]

Judge Ayman al-Akazi issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and the prophet and inciting sectarian strife and another year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak.

Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He made no comment to reporters as he was immediate led outside to a prison truck.

Seconds after he was loaded into the truck and the door closed, an Associated Press reporter heard the sound of a slap from inside the vehicle and a shriek of pain from Nabil.

[From Jihadwatch.org.]

I wonder how long before India starts the witchhunt of bloggers. I am guessing a year or so. Book and movie banning is a pretty regular event given Indian secularism. Recently I was warned by a fellow blogger to not write anything that might upset religious sentiments.

  • little ram

    Atanu,

    I am less certain of censorship in India(maybe foolishly so!) Essentially, I am counting on our plurality to revent any such restriction of free speech from being imposed.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    Censorship exists in india in a very Evil way.
    There is no other word to use but i wouldnt have got my point accoss if i said “in a very bad way.”

    Lets See all copies of a movie Kissa Kursi ka were burned by Randira Gandhi.
    Naipauls books were banned and many others including the famous Salman Rushdie.
    And guess what a famous writer Khushwant Singh who has complained about freedom of speech in india was responsible for doing so.

    And look at the bitch slapping some kids received in Meruth by a fat bitch of a cop who was showing of for the camera.

    Now its perfectly normal for opposite sex to attract and get together at parks,
    and in the name of morality people have censored behavior, writing, movies and what not.

    This is why I think indian entrepreneurs wont get any where.
    Its my unscientific conjecture that creativity is tied with freedom of expression including sexual expression.
    I have never met a desi ‘good studious boy’ type who could have been an entrepreneur and get some thing done other than regurgitating answers to well known patterns on a an exam.

    So Hell it was hell for me in india as a person with a healthy sex drive, a desire to explore and do something different.

    There is NO difference between indian culture and muslim culture in this respect.

    I have heard this many times from Indians in US…That US is a bad place to be and it invariably comes to sexual morality.
    Once a guy who had admitted to going to prostitute in india told me the same thing.
    Then I asked him about his visits to the prostitute, then he answered well you see Girls dont do this stuff in india.
    Wow and he was not a mullah but this is the same muslim style attitude india has.

    And ps check out what MohanDas Gandhi said about khajurao temples.
    He would have gone ghazni on them if he could.

  • Anuj

    Atanu,
    I say this with utmost sincerity – your blog/musings/writing is the finest commentary on India, not only on the blogosphere but anywhere.
    Many thanks.

    This said – I am always perplexed when people who have much to ashmed of in their own back yards, rant against, mostly, the American Foreign policy.
    e.g, Newzealand, a nation of europeans living on land stolen from the indegenous maoris.
    In my opinion, had the kiwis been sincere, they would first move back to europe and then lambast Bush/America etc.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    I wonder how long before India starts the witchhunt of bloggers.

    What that has already happened.
    A fellow by the name of Gaurav Sabnis resigned under pressure from his job
    because of pressure against IBM purchases from IIPM.
    What a pusillanimous attitude towards liberty.

  • Niket

    What a pusillanimous attitude towards liberty

    Not quite. Gaurav’s decision to quit wasn’t due to pressure from his employer. As explained by Gaurav himself

    Frankly, it was mainly a decision taken to avoid some headache for me as well as for IBM. [...] Which is why I was surprised at how the resignation acted like some sort of a spark and kicked off this amzing chain of events.

    It isn’t just about government censorship, its also about being unable to exercise ones write to expression due to threats from fundamentalists (be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian or any other religion/ideology). And it is already happening.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    Niket
    It was about avoiding headache!
    what does that mean.
    If i write something on my own time
    and even if it happens to be untrue(in this case the evidence points otherwise).
    You the offended party can cause headache for my employer.
    That is censorship By proxy.
    And the proxy is the sorry-gand indian state, where one complaint against IBM would have dragged on for eons in the court case.
    It was censorship by proxy where government is part of the apparatus.
    Do you know in india you can get arrested for showing an uncensored movie.
    A gr8 legacy from the tapu-ri angrez.
    FYI in the civilized world it will simply say that movie has not been rated.
    and rating is done not by government.

    FOS is nothing without FTO.
    (Freedom of speech;Freedom to offend)
    No desi politician has ever learned that and people in india dont demand that.

    And ofcourse they do enjoy taking potshots at US.

  • Niket

    If Gaurav has right to criticize IIPM, why doesn’t IIPM have the right to protest by burning their own laptops. As long as they don’t burn someone else’s laptops or destroy someone else’s properties, the same FOS applies to them as well. You can’t selectively have FOS, no matter how wrong or wrong-headed the other party is.

    There isn’t an iota of doubt that Gaurav was a “victim” here, that a better response from someone being accused of wrong-doing is to demonstrate why the criticism is wrong, and that the accused was trying to use strong-arm tactics. But eventually, Gaurav’s resignation was voluntary.

    Again, I am not arguing in favor of IIPM. Hell no! I am simply saying that however we feel about it, the same FOS applies to sending a legal notice to Gaurav and threatening to protest. If the case drags on for decades in the court is not the fault of parties involved, but that of our legal system.

    Sorry, but I don’t see it as a censorship by proxy.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    How is sending a legal notice to Gaurav same as FOS?
    IIPM is free to say anything to dispute points Gaurav is making or make up their own allegations against Gaurav
    That is FOS.
    not legal notice.
    Legal notices is phuss.
    And if the case drags on for decades it is the damn fault for indian legal system.
    They created a system which has near 100year backlog as of last year.
    It is censorship by proxy, saying i will make your life miserable b/c you said something about me.

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  • Niket

    GGK, its not that I don’t agree with what you say. But I am playing a sort of devils advocate, trying to find instances where other side may also be right.

    1. The reason why Gaurav got so much support is because IIPM was resorting to strong-arm tactics. Protests like burning laptops are typically seen acceptable when done by a “weaker” party.

    But if we have to protect our right to, say, protest against Iraq war (applicable in US), we should also support the right of others to protest against us.

    2. Legal notices were meant to exploit a loophole in the system and play on insecurities of an individual. They were morally wrong. But legally, perfectly OK.

    Thats all I was saying. If you have more, feel free to email me at my gmail id: nkaisare

  • http://ambarthejovian.blogspot.com Ambar

    Atanu, do you ever get the depressing feeling that the world today is moving ever so slowly toward 1984?

  • Akhondofswat

    Maybe not 1984, but certainly “Brave New World”. See Neil Postman……”alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

    What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.”

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  • Arvind

    And how would one censor around the world? Internet the Liberator. I have not the faintest idea about the truth in the blog below but coming from a Muslim in the US, I was certainly surprised to read it. Now I can only wish it is not TRUE!
    http://mukto-mona.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/12/my-experience-with-islam.htm

  • Arvind

    Not only the blogs, more powerful is the YouTube phenomenon. How about “The small brother is watching”. China must have been embarassed by this one they could not censor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1oq0hb7C0c. “Killing tibetans coming to India”.