All The More Reason


Why don’t religious zealots ‘get’ metaphors? (Part 244)
June 4, 2006, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Religion

Asia House, has been forced to cancel an exhibition by M.F. Hussain, following 'threats' and a campaign by the Hindu Human Rights group protesting against the artist's depiction of a naked Hindu goddess in one of his paintings (pictured below, but not censored by me- any links to an uncensored version much appreciated). The Hindu lobby has 'previous' when it comes to Mr Hussain's work. Earlier this year they forced him to remove one of his paintings from an auction raising money for victims of the South East Asian tsunami (and they have the cheek to talk about obscenity!).

The picture

Where do we start with this one? The name of the pressure group might be a good place. Perhaps it is just a poor use of language on HHR's part, but isn't the name of their group a little ambiguous? They are either: (1) using the word 'Hindu' as an adjective to describe the type of human rights they want, or (2) claiming that they wish to see the human rights of Hindus protected. There is a difference here, but neither stance justifies their bullying of Asia House.

The problems with option (1) must be self-evident. There can be no such thing as 'Hindu' human rights, just as there are no 'Christian', 'Buddhist' or 'Mormon' human rights. Human rights are, by their very nature, universal. Option (2) might make some sense in certain contexts. Nobody would wish to see Hindus, or any other religious sect, denied the right to openly express their superstition. This is just one facet of the freedom of expression that any society must robustly defend.

However (and I think you can see where I am going with this one), the right to freedom of expression cuts both ways. If HHR are arguing for the curtailment of M.F. Hussain's freedom of expression, they cease to be a group in favour of human rights. Their existence is, in fact, inimical to this cause. The group is demanding the special privilege to trample over the rights of others in the name of 'offense'.

When Mary Whitehouse and her brigade of knitting-needle wielding 'Clean up TV' prudes used to invoke the same arguments against the evils of Eastenders and the like, they were rightly laughed out of court. Dressing up intolerance in religious robes seems to get you much further nowadays. In the past couple of years we have had the Jerry Springer the Opera campaign; the Birmingham Repertory Theatre protests; the global pandemic of cartoon burning…How much longer are we going to put up with this sort of nonsense?

If you fancy writing a letter to Asia House about this, it couldn't do any harm.

Michael P

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