More on the Indian State’s Censorship of the Spy Thriller That Was Supposedly Offensive to Muslims

I blogged about this Thursday, under the heading Indian State Government Temporarily Blocks Release of Spy Thriller, Citing Fear of Riots by Muslims. I thought I’d note two follow-ups: First, director Kamal Haasan has “agreed to seven demands of Muslim leaders, mostly muting of the audio of portions objected to by them,” and it now looks like the movie can indeed be released in Tamil Nadu (the state that had blocked it) — and, presumably, will not face potential violent reprisals.

Second, I’ve been trying to figure out just what what supposedly so offensive to some Muslims that it led the Tamil Nadu government to ban it, claiming fears of rioting. I couldn’t find an objective analysis, but I did see a critical opinion column in an Indian political magazine, Tehelka — notwithstanding its likely biases, I thought I’d excerpt it, though I’d be glad to replace or supplement the excerpt from a more objective source, if readers can pass it along. The column begins by suggesting that there were various behind-the-scenes political consideration behind the Tamil Nadu move, and then briefly summarizes the objections:

Those who have watched the film (including this writer) in states other than Tamil Nadu, have found nothing in the film that should offend the sensibilities of Indian Muslims. Vishwaroopam has been running to packed houses in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, both states with a significant Muslim population, and there has been no breakdown of law and order….

Vishwaroopam is the story of a Muslim RAW agent, who was once a covert operative in the al Qaeda and later saves New York City from a possible terror attack. The story is quite clear that the villainous Muslims are those who are in the al Qaeda, while the Indian Muslim (played by Kamal) is the hero of the film. The ­entire film is set in Afghanistan and New York.

Muslim groups, however, feel that the al Qaeda terrorists shown reading the Holy Quran would make people at large believe that all Muslims are terrorists. Another objection is to the name ‘Umar’, which the top terrorist (played by actor Rahul Bose) goes by. Muslim organisations say Umar bin-al-Khattab is the name of the second Khalifa in Islam, a revered figure, and the terrorist’s name should be changed. But then the Taliban head is Mullah Omar and no one asked him to change his name….

A PIL [Public Interest Litigation, I think -EV] has also been admitted in the Andhra Pradesh High Court against Vishwaroopam and one of the petitioners, Amjedullah Khan of a political party called Majlis Bachao Tehreek in Hyderabad, says, “It is a calculated move by the fascist ­Hindutva forces through their agents like Kamal Haasan to influence innocent non-Muslims and mislead them about Islam. It is an age-old strategy of anti-Muslim forces to portray Islam in a bad light by ­indulging in blasphemy.”

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