Versatile Bollywood actress and social activist Shabana Azmi on Friday depricated as unjust and untrue the tendency of equating Islam with terrorism as she received the prestigious International Gandhi Peace Prize…
I reckon her celebrity status gives her the right to say inappropriate things on inappropriate occasions:Â a sentimental speech about the urgent need for peace, defence of Islam, Hindu fundamentalism (well, she has thankfully refrained from using that exact term), clash of civilizations, problems of Indian women, Gandhi, Bush, Iraq, Gujarat… the array of topicsÂ simply stuns the senses. Amid thisÂ deluge, one doesn’t notice the absence of logic. For example:
“terrorism is being equated with Islam – This is both unjust and untrue. Myths are being perpetuated in the name of religion.”
Islam, she said, is not a monolith. “Islam resides in more than 50 countries in the world and takes on the culture of the country in which it resides. So it is tolerant in some, liberal in some, extremist in others.”
If Mad Mullahs holler in India, blame Indian culture for their behaviour. If France plans to ban headscarves, yell that the French are intolerant because Islam “takes on the culture of the country in which it resides.” That however, doesn’t explain Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
And then there’s also that other Big Myth:
In India, we earned our freedom through non-violent passive resistance…
Not entirely: non-violence was simply one of the–albeit the most popular one during that period–methods. Thousands of non-non-violent freedom fighters were tortured and killed while a prominent non-violent leader spouted nonsense about discovering India from the hallowed portals of luxurious jails. On the topic of freedom struggle, Azmi curiously doesn’t mention the almost-forgotten monstrosity called the Cellular Jail. The lucrative industry of Milking Gandhi till Eternity is in no hurry to fade into the sunset.
Before we close, ShabanaÂ overflows with praise on a certain Vanessa Redgrave.
I am truly overwhelmed and humbled to receive the covetous award. My joy on this occasion has been doubled because Vanessa Redgrave, who has been my hero for many years, both as an actress of immeasurable talent and a woman of tremendous courage who has stuck her neck out of for her political convictions and issues of human rights and social justice, has consented to give me the Award.
I’m sure Vanessa Redgrave has made a positive difference to a lot of people. But her profile also throws up some uncomfortable facts:
In 1977, Redgrave funded and narrated a documentary film on the plight of the Palestinian people….
…showed her in a PLO training camp, dancing as she waved a rifle over her head. (Doing the fedayeen two-step?) In accepting an Oscar for Julia (1978), Redgrave railed at the “Zionist hoodlums” (an expression Soviets propagandists applied to those protesting the treatment of Russian Jews).
In 1980, Redgrave proclaimed, “The State of Israel must be overthrown, there is no room for such a state.” In December 1981, she told the publication Arab Perspective, “The Zionist state is the cause of conflict and violence in the Middle East.”
In December 2002 Redgrave paid Â£50,000 bail for Chechen separatist Deputy Premier and special envoy Akhmed Zakayev, who had sought political asylum in the United Kingdom and was accused by the Russian government of aiding and abetting hostage-takings in the Moscow Hostage Crisis of 2002–in which 128 hostages lost their lives–and guerrilla warfare against Russia.
These sterlingÂ acts of courageÂ make her a hero in Shabana’s eyes: sticking to political convictions and all. Neither is it surprising; the two share a lot in common.
It doesn’t take too much to win a Gandhi prize today.