Back in the wintry mists of time, this February, I had another of many delightful & frank exchange of ideas with individuals on the medium that was built for precisely such honest & enlightening debate: Twitter. The topic was something that most of us, thanks to the wonderfully transient nature of the scandal-of-the-day 24-hour news cycle, might have forgotten all about by now – Penguin India’s recall of Wendy Doniger’s ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. At the time, I compiled the “conversation” into one final reply which I posted on Twitter & sent in an email to Ms. Doniger. If nothing else, I assumed she could find some humour in it, a positive thing in any circumstance.
Yesterday, I got a reply from her, belatedly thanking me for my support. Which is why I happened to revisit the original post & chuckle at the absurdity of trying to have a sane conversation with….well, most people on Twitter.
Dear Ms. Doniger
I haven’t read your book. I would like to, sadly not because I’ve heard about it from someone who read it but rather because of the controversy surrounding it. Such are the ironies of life!
But the reason I mail you today is because I fully defend your right to write anything that you want. I may not agree with it eventually, but I shall, in the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “…defend to the death your right to say it”.
The second reason is that I indulged in what’s referred to as a Twitter flame-war today with a couple of fairly narrow-minded individuals about the subject of my protesting Penguin India’s decision to remove the book from circulation. Eventually, 140 characters not being enough to express my opinion (or frustration at the seeming lack of logic from the other side), I compiled both the so-called argument and my stance on the matter into one piece, which I’ve now posted on Twitter. I send it you now, hoping you may, if nothing else, enjoy the absurdity involved in trying to have a logical argument with a fanatic. The argument in it’s whole is a matter of public record on my Twitter account.
@TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 @chainacoffeemug
So this has been an entertaining evening. I’d like to think of it as a social experiment. One that digressed from books about to Hinduism to, somehow, Salman Khan’s box office performance. I’m not entirely sure how it got there…but we’ll let it slide and attribute it to the already surreal nature of this conversation.
But, since 140 letters can never be enough to sustain any sort of dialogue, I’d like to argue this out using logic and reason. And much as I’m tempted to crack a joke about the lack thereof in most of tonight’s haranguing, I shall refrain & merely ask you to respond (if you like, your choice entirely) to the following points in a calm, sensible fashion.
I know that it seems like I have a lot of free time on my hands & I’m sure you’re itching to retaliate with some wisecrack about my previous movie not being a hit and you not even knowing about it’s existence, etc etc. I’m sure you’re entitled to your opinion about my cinematic prowess, but that’s not really the point being discussed here tonight, is it? I mean I’m not attacking your skill-sets, personal or professional. In fact, some of you don’t even want to reveal who you really are because I’m assuming it’s just so much easier to hide behind a veil of anonymity. Ah well, so be it.
So, here we go. The players are the man/woman we shall only know as @TheHinduNation, Maria from Kabul (@chainacoffeemug) & someone called @fakejoker2 along with yours truly:
1. Let’s start from the beginning. This was the first tweet I got from @TheHinduNation:
“@dan1shaslam Abe BC….pehle innocence of islam ko india me release karao….uske baad karo apni hypocritical bakchodi…”
Which was rapidly followed by:
“@dan1shaslam a god damn jihadi talking about freedom of speech is d biggest joke since the fucking big bang….”
Now what I can gather, apart from the colourful (& completely unwarranted) language was that Mr. Mafia (over-compensating much?) didn’t like my opinion on the case filed against Penguin India for the book ‘The Hindus’. Which is absolutely fine and he’s entitled to his opinion. But that doesn’t mean that you can abuse me. If nothing else, it implies a degree of familiarity that I’m entirely confident should not exist.
Inspite of that, let’s address the facts. Your 1st assumption was that I was only reacting to this situation because I’m a Muslim and the book is about Hinduism. Your 2nd assumption was that I wouldn’t react the same way if the issue involved Muslims suppressing freedom of speech. This was also expressed in another tweet you sent later:
“@dan1shaslam put that standard to every bit of speech n id stand by u…go defend danish cartoonist…first…then v shall talk…”
Now my response to this was very simple. Firstly, I’m an atheist. So the question of me singling out any particular religion is absurd. And secondly, I have reacted in the past with equal outrage at a Muslim country suppressing someone’s freedom of speech. And as proof, I offered the link to the relevant tweet:
“@TheHinduNation I refer you to my tweet from last year:https://twitter.com/dan1shaslam/status/395395524150312961 …”
Your collective responses to this was: silence. In fact, your response was to suddenly realise that I’d made a movie & quite inexplicably change the topic to that:
“@dan1shaslam aah ur the guy who made brk k baad? No wonder…personal motivations eh? Next cud b u on chopping block…for makin such crap”
2. At some point, you started attacking me personally. Although I think that point was pretty much reached with your very first tweet and the masterful use of the abbreviated “BC”. But then, when I asked you if you were brave enough to reveal your real name instead of hiding behind a convenient and ANONYMOUS twitter ID. To which your brilliant response was:
“@dan1shaslam bravery is sumthing to be shown in real life…social media me to har koi sher hota hai…jaisa tum try kar rahe ho abhi haha”
I use the word “brilliant” here because the irony in this statement is delicious. I’m not sure you realise it, despite my efforts at pointing it out later, but you just accused me (a person who’s using their real name on Twitter) of something that you (a person refusing or too scared to show the world their real name) are so blatantly guilty of! It’s amazing….and depressing at the same time.
This lovely thread ended with you issuing a challenge:
“@dan1shaslam chalo its a challenge…find out what my name is…my address…and post it here…”
To which my response was, again, something that you yourself provided me with:
“way more imp ppl in the world still left…”
3. A little while later, perhaps tired of having to actually type out so many responses or perhaps just tired of trying to keep track of the many different directions your statements were going, you decided to adopt a new track:
“Chalo chhodo @dan1shaslam miyan Shruti Seth Ji ke husband ho…jaane diya tumhe…Bye Bye @chainacoffeemug @fakejoker2”
Which was followed by:
“@chainacoffeemug @dan1shaslam Miyan hum vo log hain jinhone aapke Bhaijaan ki baja di…Unse aur unki PR team se poochna ja kar @fakejoker2”
I have 2 questions: what does being my wife’s husband have anything to do with whether or not I’m right or wrong? I, unfortunately, don’t have the pleasure of knowing who your parents are yet. But if I did, I wouldn’t say, ‘Chalo yaar, app Mafia Sr. ke bete ho. Jaane diya”. That makes no sense.
And secondly, what does Salman Khan and his box office prowess have anything at all to do with whether I can speak my mind about any topic in the world? That’s like me saying, “I can do a cartwheel while drinking a Pepsi. So you shut up!” It baffles the mind.
4. Maria now joins the picture. You don’t seem to like me too much either, but at one point you did raise a valid point:
@TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 Unless he spoke as strongly for freedom of speech- when it came to Rushdie etc. also @dan1shaslam
I then sent you the same link as above (the Hamza Kashgari incident). But the overflowing show of support for my right to express my opinion & freedom of speech being sacred didn’t seem to be forthcoming. Sad, but there it is. And when I responded to your obviously sarcastic tweet:
“@dan1shaslam @TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 Nahin sunna hee nahin nah. See I live in Kabul,kindly enlighten us as now,I hide in my bunker. :-)”
…with a little sarcasm of my own:
“@chainacoffeemug @TheHinduNation @fakejoker2 Tch, tch. Come now, I have a much higher opinion of Afghanistan. Don’t let them down :)”
I was immediately accused of being a bully! Again, can you see the irony here? Please tell me you do.
5. At some point, @fakejoker2 also chimed in with his two cents:
@dan1shaslam @chainacoffeemug @thehindunation hey danish do ya thingy mate, jelous asses n losers will alwayz seek ya attention.
Thanks for that, by the way. Don’t know if it helped really. But still.
6. The final bit from Maria then went back to my career – convenient and completely off-topic, but we’ll just chalk that up to that being everybody on Twitter’s favourite form of offense.
Me: “I don’t agree with what you say”
You: “You shut up! You made a bad movie!”
Wow, navigating that morass of genius took me a while. And now I feel like I don’t have the energy to actually make the point that I was trying to. But here goes anyway:
I believe in free speech. I believe in every person’s right to hold an opinion and to express that opinion freely. Going by your Twitter pages, I’d say you guys have exercised that right on more than one occasion. So what I can’t understand is how my doing the same results in you abusing me?
I do not believe in religion. I think it causes more harm than good. And then of course, there’s the inevitable question: who’s right and who’s wrong? There are, at last count, 2870 deities recorded in known history ranging from Ra to Zeus to Krishna to Ram to Allah to Buddha, etc etc. When you say you believe in God, my response to you is: which one? And if you name one, then my answer is simple: You are as big an atheist as I am. I don’t believe in 2870 gods and you don’t believe in 2869!
So I stand by my statement. People should be allowed to express their opinion. If it harms you in any way, shut your ears. If you don’t like what you see, close your eyes! It’s simple really. If you have a problem with ‘The Hindus’, don’t buy the book! How does it affect your life, unless you let it? There are still copies of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ being sold. I don’t see gas chambers being erected to wipe out entire populations of Jews anywhere in the world. Do you?
I sincerely hope that this entire exercise has not been in vain and some rational discussion can still be had after all this. If not, I shall carry on with my life and you with yours. In the words of Maria:
@dan1shaslam @TheHinduNation My friend, u are misreading a lot of things here. 🙂 Cool down for a bit; theres too much reaction in u now
I hope that there will ALWAYS be too much reaction in me, dear Maria. Otherwise, what’s the point in living?