Monday, August 30, 2010

Misinterpretation - Text or texter?

Here's an excerpt of a comment that was made by Mukul Bhatia on the post, "Freedom of religion...questionable in America". It had got me thinking deeper into the issue, which is why I thought that today's post should be about that -

Why Muslims. Always? Elaborate. We need to OPEN OUR MINDS and be more TOLERANT and accepting of others. Really? Imagine losing someone close, very close, for some text, intentionally misinterpreted text to defeat everything great a man could be(in the name of morality and inability), for the sake of some text, a mere text written ages ago. And imagine celebrating and glorifying that very text at the same place where you lost someone. 

First of all, a big thank you for your comment, Mukul! It's an engaging discussion you have started there. 

What I could interpret from your question is that, you were asking why is that always Muslims feel threatened about their religion? Why are Muslims always in the news for injustice done to them or their religion? 

The unique thing about the Quran is that it places religion and religious liberty above everything else. Now, how did you interpret the above statement? Out of context and out of place, it can draw a completely different meaning than the one it was meant to have. The Quran, like any other text, that has been translated into other languages from the original one is open to misinterpretations. Yes, as you pointed out, it has been done intentionally too. That's how the youth in various terrorist-breeding areas have been brainwashed into turning into Jihadis. Jihad is another misinterpreted term in itself, though.

But none of this takes away from the fact that misinterpretation of a text by a group of people cannot put the text or its followers on the scaffold.  I am g
lad that you made that last statement. That's the whole point of the debate. Is it okay to disrespect the text because someone misinterpreted it (intentionally or otherwise)? Is the text itself wrong or the user of the text wrong? Can you blame the text for terrorist activities? If yes, then I believe you has a point. If not, why should the text and its worship be maligned?

Also, I think we get too much into the Muslim bit when we are talking about a Muslim. So for example, if a Taufiq Ahmed(fictitious) raised his voice against an injustice done to him, it's not a person asking for justice, it's a Muslim asking for justice. We are just as sensitive to their religion, as they are. The media too has gone a long way in creating this image. 


So yes, we do need to open our minds and be more tolerant and accepting of others. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Don't tell them

Chilean officials are offering lots of advice to help 33 miners trapped underground keep their health and sanity as they wait to be rescued. One thing they're not sharing with the men is their estimate that it could take four months to drill them out of an emergency shelter nearly half a mile below the surface. 

Following up on the Chilean miners' freedom story, I recently came across the above piece of information in the Times of India - the trapped Chilean miners have not been told that it could take four months to rescue them out of the mine. The Chilean government has taken this decision to keep up the morale of the trapped miners. 

One of the trapped miners through cable was heard saying, "We're hoping all of Chile makes an effort to get us out of here by the 18th" of September, Chile's Independence Day, which this year coincides with the bicentennial of the end of Spanish clonial rule"
The poor soul is unaware of how much time the rescue may take and hopes to be free in another month's time. 

I beg to differ with the Chilean government here, when they say it is helping them keep up their morale. I think it hampers the morale.This way, the miners wake up every morning hoping they'd see the sun that day and then go to sleep with that hope crushed every night. (The miners are not even sure when the day begins and when the night has come). 

Uncertainty kills hope. It is easier to cope when you know that the ordeal is going to be over in another week, another month or another year's time. You can live with the hope that you WILL be free then. But when you don't see a definite end in sight, you are pretty much lost in the mess. You start questioning if it's ever going to end...and a man can almost be driven to insanity this way.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Freedom of religion...questionable in America

Here are two quotes that I came across while skimming through the ongoing controversy in the U.S, over the proposed  mosque near Ground Zero -

Mr. McNeil’s opinion of where the new mosque in New York should be built is quite absurd and very disrespectful. He believes that the proposed mosque near Ground Zero should be built “nine stories underground, so we can walk above it as citizens as Christians.”  

and a poster carried in a protest against the proposed mosque  -

Building a mosque at ground zero is like building a memorial to Hitler at Auschwitz 

It shows weak support for freedom of religion in the U.S - when Muslims are involved.

Ron McNeil is an American Republican Congressional candidate who has been going around telling school children that Islam is against American ideals. 

 This story reminds me of the movie "My name is Khan" and its depiction of a Muslim in America, post 9/11. It had seemed an exaggeration to me before, but seems too true now. Not every Khan is a terrorist. Yet, there is a sense of fear and prejudice associated with a Muslim name, a Muslim worship place or anything to do with Islam among a certain section in present America. Not everything can be blamed on American intolerance though.

The terrorists have misused the word "Islam" and phrases such as "a fight to save Islam" or "to die for Allah", that an average ignorant person may end up associating the two, which is not to say that the two are associated. In fact, like any other religion, Islam is based on peace, love and harmony.

I say an ignorant person because holding a whole religion responsible for the acts of a few who think they do what they do for saving/promoting their religion amounts to nothing more than ignorance. Since Muslims have been equated with Hitler in the above poster, we can safely say that as Hitler and the Nazis went about 'purging' Germany by getting rid of the Jews because they believed them to be an inferior people, all Christians in Germany are terrorists or were terrorists at the time. So let's not build a church near Auschwitz. 

We need to open our minds and be more tolerant and accepting of others. Because otherwise, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

Obama gets 'Freedom'

Obama given copy of Franzen’s Freedom, booksellers panic

When I read this headline today, the first thing that came to my mind was, why would the booksellers panic if Obama gets a copy of Franzen's Freedom? Does it contain some shocking secrets that were meant to be hidden from him? Is Franzen asking for freedom from the Obama administration in his book? 

To those of you who are wondering, what's going on in here - this was a headline on today.
'Freedom' is Jonathen Franzen's much awaited new novel, coming out a decade after his last, the much acclaimed, ''The Corrections''. It has created a lot of buzz already and is expected to go on sale on August 31 in U.S bookstores.

But, as I read the article further, I realized Oh no! Nothing as exciting as that! It's just that the booksellers thought that a store had sold a copy to Obama and hence was foregoing the embargoed shelf date of August 31. In actuality, they had offered the president an Advanced Reading Copy. So they were just threatening to put the book on sale early to beat competition.

The publisher isn't complaining with the publicity he got. Neither am I, for the question it has raised in my mind. I am still left wondering, was the headline writer just playing with words there? It'd be interesting to know her opinion on Democrats. But I wouldn't really have an answer till I read the book. Would I? 

Keeping a close watch on that book in this blog. Stay tuned ;)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Buried...but ALIVE!

Too many negative stories about freedom doing the rounds...moving away from the negativity for a I'd like to leave you guys with a more hopeful note :)

Trapped miners keep their faith in freedom

Here's a story of how the hope of freedom is keeping 33 men in Chile alive!

Thirty-three miners in Santiago, Chile, got trapped in the San Jose gold and copper mine on August 5th, 2010 as its main entrance collapsed due to falling rock. It's been 18 days since and all the men have been confirmed alive! A probe was sent more than 2000 feet into the mine this sunday, which came back with two messages. One was a letter written by the one of the miners trapped inside, to his wife.
'Dear Liliana, I'm well, thank God. I hope to get out soon. Have patience and faith. I haven't stopped thinking about all of you for a single moment. We're hearing the drilling machine. Let's hope it gets here this time … I'm sure we'll get out of here alive. I hope to talk to you later."
And the other was a note that was read aloud by the president of Chile:
''All 33 of us are well inside the shelter" 
The drilling that the man is talking about here will take at least FOUR MONTHS to create an opening large enough for the miners to be pulled out. And yet, the men are hopeful.

There is a positive note embedded in the word itself...FREEDOM...the condition of being free. So all that is keeping them alive is the faith that they will be free one day.  The desire to be free is so strong that it has driven men to overthrow empires (numerous nations are a testimony to that - the French revolution , the Indian freedom struggle), to revolutionize societies (Nelson Mandela's fight against apartheid ) and to survive in extreme conditions and come out alive (The Bielski brothers, Jewish brothers who defied the Nazis and saved another 1200 Jews in Nazi Germany ). 

Here we see another miracle story of 33 men who will endure these FOUR months and hopefully come out alive. AMEN!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is anyone listening?

Facing the weapon/Bare hands/Who will listen?
Facing the bullets/Oozing this blood/Who will listen?
Wishing the smiles/Full of tears/Who will listen?
Turning the heaven/Into hell/Who will listen?

These lines have been taken from a poem written by a Kashmiri youth from his hospital bed. Hilal Ahmed was hit by bullets as he participated in peaceful protests demanding "FREEDOM from India" in his hometown, Anantnag, Kashmir, on August 2nd, 2010.

The dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan has always stuck like a bone in the Indian politician's throat. None has ever been able to get rid of it, and often India has choked over it. But now it has taken the form of a revolution of the people to 'free Kashmir from India'.

The valley is boiling with a fierce anti-India sentiment and the government is not paying enough attention to its potential. Reports such as these, where unarmed protesters indulging in peaceful protests have been shot at, have only fueled it further. The more than 50 youth that were killed in the clashes between the protesters and the security personnel have been revered as martyrs, who laid their lives for 'the cause'.

So the Kashmiri youth ask today, "Who will listen?" While I ask today, "Is Delhi listening?"

The government needs to do more, and differently, than what it is doing now to tackle the sensitive situation, before it turns into an "uprising" against India. And I fear once Kashmir breaks away, it will give leverage to the whole Naxal movement and then some other movement will follow and some other state will demand freedom and then another and another....There is just no end to this!

Well, we have been struggling with this for the past 63 years and it hasn't got any better over the years.

God help Kashmir. God help the people of India!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010



This was the TIME magazine cover for the week of 9th August, 2010 

The girl on the cover is Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghan whose ears and nose were cut off at the behest of a Taliban commander, her only crime being fleeing from her abusive in-laws. Makes you think if women have really attained freedom, doesn't it?

This is just one example among many, of the persisting oppression of  women in society. And this is me talking in the 21st century. Apparently, in the Pashtun society, nose cutting is the 'punishment' for a wife who 'disgraces' her 'husband'. And according to propagandists in Afghanistan, that was what happened with Aisha 

Without sounding like a misandrist, I can infer from this that the men in such a society have no qualms about first beating and abusing a woman and then mutilating her further if she protests or tries to protect herself.

Now the more shocking part of the whole thing is that TIME chose such a disturbing image, a picture that will haunt children and adults alike for a long time, to go along with a cover story titled 'What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan'. In doing so, they reduced the significance of the main issue, of a girl being mutilated for protecting herself, for trying to exercise her right to live a poster for promoting U.S presence in Afghanistan. 

Interestingly though, conditions of Afghan women did not necessarily improve after the invasion by the U.S army, as is pointed out in here - So perhaps the U.S does not even have a strong case in propagating that Afghanistan will revert to barbarianism if they leave. The U.S government takes Rudyard Kipling 's 'The White Man's Burden' pretty seriously, it seems. ;)

Hence,the bigger question is not whether the U.S should continue to be at war with Afghanistan to free its people of the Taliban or not, rather it's if women in Afghanistan should go on war against such atrocities to claim their FREEDOM or not...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010



I am Ira :) I love writing, but I have never attempted to write a blog. Now that I have got down to writing one, I realize it has an interesting no-limits feel to it. Please feel free to like, comment, follow, hate or critique the blog…and help me learn! 

I have named it WINGS because wings prompt the image of freedom in my mind and that is going to be the theme of this blog.

I believe freedom has become more of an illusion than a reality today, or perhaps it always was an illusion. We are not as free as we believe ourselves to be. And then, we forget those who are not even as free as we.   

In this blog, I will try to focus on news stories and current events in India and around the world that highlight our state of freedom...freedom from bias, freedom of speech, freedom from oppression, freedom of women, freedom from dogma or simply, the freedom to be!

So hop on and let your mind take flight!