It was not just yet another hour of meaningless perusal of News yesterday but more of ‘nail in the coffin’ moment for me. For whatever personal and sometimes outlandishly skewed reasons, I’ve always been oblivious to any comments made by so-called celebrities of India. But Aamir Khan was never included in that club for me obviously due to his mature acting stakes as well as more of ‘Only Cerebral Bollywood personality’ style. Hence when an actor like him makes a statement about leaving a country it certainly makes you wonder whether Aamir is buying into that awful and specious doctrine of “Muslims don’t have their allegiance to India”.
At an awards function yesterday, Aamir launched a broadside against the climate of intolerance in the country. That wasn’t surprising. What was utterly jaw-dropping, however, was the way he chose to come on board the anti-intolerance bandwagon. He said that his wife often wonders if they should move out of the country. “That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make,” he said. “She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. That does indicate there is this sense of growing disquiet… apart from alarm… That sense does exist in me.”
What surprised and equally disturbed me is that how Aamir Khan failed to understand the gravity of his words? When the intolerance debate was raging across the county, with several film personalities returning their awards along with writers and so-called intellectuals, he was silent. In the aftermath of the Dadri lynching and the hysteria over beef, his fellow Bollywood biggie Shahrukh Khan courted controversy by declaring that there was “extreme intolerance” in the country. But he was still silent. Was it only because he felt compelled to wait for an appropriate time to make a blockbuster statement so as to cash in maximum popularity?
I am not against expressing one’s own views or concerns because I am a true believer of Voltaire’s view “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” but I feel Aamir Khan’s indictment of intolerance has been thoughtless, irresponsible and contradictory to his own publicly preached values. When he talks about feeling insecure, when he talks about his wife fearing for their child, that fear spreads like a contagion and affects India’s teeming hinterland where most Hindus and Muslims live peacefully; it provokes fear and suspicion where probably none exists. This expression of my view is not just a futile attempt to rationalize some irrelevant, stupid comments made by uneducated Indian celebrities but to express pain suffered by a deeply wounded patriotic heart.
According to Aamir, it is his ‘Hindu’ wife who is in the need of moving out of the country with his family. However by endorsing the comments of his wife what he is saying, in effect, that the atmosphere of intolerance backed by so-called persecution of minorities is so intense in the country today that his wife fears for the safety of her child who is Muslim. Does Aamir know what a life of refugee which his wife is contemplating to be truly is? If he does not understand that, I’d recommend him and his wife to read the memoirs of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani and Kashmiri refugees, feel their pain by meeting and talking to these people, participating in the aid embargo for these people.
What hurt me the most is by making this public statement Aamir has put India in the list of countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and ISIS infiltrated Middle East. I know I am an ordinary unimportant person just like any other ordinary middle class Indian in eyes of the privileged, rarified Bollywood existence but would certainly like an opportunity to get following questions answered by not just Aamir Khan but all the other celebrities who feel this magnificent country has suddenly become the most intolerant nation on the face of the earth in last year or so.
· I’ll start with the most recent happenings because human memory is very short term. Per the officially published records, your recent movie PK made approx. $120M on the box office when compared to mere $13M put into the budget. This movie was entirely based on the bashing of Hindu Gods and Godmen who are worshipped by over 60% of India’s Hindu population who happen to be approximately 80% of the country’s total population. Did it ever occur to you, that had you made a similar movie on bashing Islam, Islamism, Islamists and/or Islamic Ideology of Jihad (I assume you understand the basic differences in all these 4 terms) in any Muslim country such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, any of the Arab countries; you would’ve been hanged or have been issued a Fatwah against?
· I know that actors just parrot the dialogues given to them by the real ‘makers’ of the movies but I always thought that you actually understood the dialogues and those really meant to you. Being a movie fanatic I happen to remember almost each and every dialogue of the movies I’ve watched. Hence I’d like to remind a famous dialogue from you movie Sarfarosh when Salim says “Das nahi das hazar Salim milenge magar fir kabhi kisi Salim se ye mat kehna ki ye mulk uska ghar nahi hai”, your character said “Nahi fir kabhi nahi kahunga”. And now you are provoking all the Salim’s of this country to leave their motherland?
· When you and your wife contemplate taking refuge in one of the nations that are safe for Muslims, do you intend to leave everything you have earned in this country and leave like a real refugee or like a mere gold-digger or an opportunist?
· Why did your wife or you feel NOT insecure when your coreligionists were wreaking havoc in your own city of Mumbai on November 26th or when Parliament was attacked or when Hindu devotees were slaughtered on the way to Amarnath in Kashmir or when Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Kashmir valley? Was it only because in all these attacks the attackers were Muslims?
· You said in your own movie Sarfarosh that India has the largest population of Muslims. Was it just mere parroting or stating of the facts?
· When you disclosed the intent to leave the country due to intolerance, did you happen to narrow down the country you will consider for the move? Below are some countries that are assumed to be theoretically safe for Muslims based on the religion and other values.
· Saudi Arabia:
o I am sure you are very familiar with this country since a lot of people have seen your Haj trip as well as some of the experiences you shared about the same trip.
o Does your wife know that she can’t practice Hinduism and has to follow Sharia law which apparently is one of the most tolerant (???) practices?
o This country bans any Islamic practices including Ramadan
o This country is known for multiple anti-Islam riots, racist practices and such.
o Where future presidents are calling for Nazi styled Identification requirements for Muslims, Mosque clean-ups, ban on public Namaz offering and such.
· European countries of the developed world
o Entire Europe is grappled with Islamophobia with multiple attacks on Muslim women, children, bans on Islamic practices, Mosques, public Namaz offerings.
o Where country’s President tells the citizens that you can’t practice the religion in public unless it’s Christianity.
o Where people are terrorized based on color of their skin and not just religion under the name of curry bashing.
o Maybe this will be the best fit country for you considering it’s the most tolerant nation on the face of the earth that kills most no. of Muslims than any country in the world.
Is there such a perfect, peaceful and socially-integrated place on earth that you can really go to? The greatness of the people is when they stay put and face the adversities and come out triumphant for the betterment of humanity. Congress orchestrated Sikh genocide but Sikhs never left the country. Tamils, Tribal people, Dalits all faced problems of persecution in some way or the other but they stayed and fought back. The fact is that there has never been a country in the history of the world that has been as welcoming as India to any religion. India is where descendants of Prophet Mohammed found refuge when they were being persecuted by their own Umayyads. Just like when you said based on some idiotic terrorist incidents entire Islam doesn’t become bad, how dare you call my country intolerant based on a few incidents?
I am really sorry to say that the Ajay Singh we always thought you were, in reality turned out to be Rehan Qadri.