Saturday, March 08, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar

I admit it: I have not seen Jodhaa Akbar. Still, I believe that banning or boycotting a movie is ultimately counterproductive, as people will become curious and want to see the movie, rather than let it die a natural death. Besides, the movie will be made available through YouTube or Google Videos: for example, the Bachchans successfully got the kissing scene between Aishwarya Rai and Hrthik Roshan in Dhoom 2 removed, after a PIL was filed and Rai was engaged to Abhishek Bachchan. However, the scene became freely available through YouTube.

From what I've read, the mainstream Indian media believes that the issue is the dubious historicity of the woman Jodhaa Bai. Anything beyond that is simply anti-Muslim sentiment, given that the story is a romance between the Muslim Akbar and the Hindu Jodhaa Bai: follow the line of questioning that interviewer Anuradha Sengupta puts before Jodhaa Akbar director Ashutosh Gowariker.

About the lack of reference to Akbar's harem, Gowariker says:

... the story in my hands had reached a length of three hours and 20 minutes. There are many more things in Akbar and Jodhaa's life that I would have loved to bring to the screen but I cannot because it goes beyond the scope of the film.

On the other hand, he says:

When I looked at the scope of the film, I realised I cannot bring it in because I think this kind of film needs the tehzeeb, the salaams, the duas, the announcements of an emperor coming into court. Because it is due to these that the right ambiance, the right atmosphere is created.

The main problem, as I see it, is that the film denies Akbar's persecution of Hindus, the abduction of Hindu women into his harem, and the Jauhar of women when defeat of the Rajputs at Akbar's hands was inevitable.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Dar-ul-Aloom's phony fatwa

The Dar-ul-Aloom seminary in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh is the most influential school of Islamic learning after Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Moreover, Dar-ul-Aloom provides the ideological underpinning for the Taliban and Islamic terrorist movements in South Asia. Small wonder that Moorthy Muthuswamy said that its influence should be "neutralized."

Dar-ul-Aloom recently issued a fatwa (link found through MEMRI) ostensibly condemning terrorism. This article Deoband plays peace card; a few call it bluff from the Times of India reviews feedback from readers about the fatwa. While the article provides considerable space to opinions of those who are rightly critical about the fatwa and the motives of the Islamic scholars, it concludes with this statement:

For the majority though, the Deoband's initiative was an important step in the war against terror.

What I read in the Dar-ul-Aloom fatwa was a cursory denunciation of terrorism. As with a fatwa issued by American Muslim groups, no Islamic terrorist individual or group is called out by name and denounced. The principal concern of the Dar-ul-Aloom fatwa is the treatment of Muslims in India and around the world, not opposition to Islamic terrorism.