By Saeed qvi
My first Christmas in London in the ’60s surprised me. The BBC camera, having dwelt extensively on Christmas shopping, a church service, filly settled on a pair of singing comedians:
"If every day was Christmas
by some fantastic trick
if every day was Christmas
we’ll all be bloody sick!"
Next, a pair of a woman’s skimpy undergarment floats onto the screen. The joke, accompanied by raucus laughter, was:
"You would wonder what these have to do with Christmas?"
Then comes the coarse punchline:
"These are Carol’s." The pun on a woman’s me and Christmas carols harmonized in those jolly times.
In the current global mood, would the BBC mount such a show? Firstly, feminism would have knocked out the second joke. Just a little earlier in chronological time, Josh Malihabadi was keeping the packed hall of the Lucknow University Union riveted at the annual mushaira or poetic symposium with his jibes at God:
"Hai waqai muntaqim to khota hai khuda
So heen hai jismein woh gota hai khuda
Shabbir Hasan Khan heen letey badla
Shabbir Hasan Khan se bhi chhota hai khuda."
(God is a fake if he really takes revenge
He is not pure as gold, only an alloy
Shabbir Hasan Khan Josh never takes revenge
Is this vengeful God even smaller than Josh?)
He would be stoned to death today.
For the most elegant irreverence in world literature, Urdu and Persian poetry remain unparalleled. Only occasiolly were a few restrictive rules laid out. One piece of advice was:
"Ba khuda deewa baash o
Ba Mohammad, hoshiar!"
(Take liberties with God but be careful with Mohammad).
But Dara Shikoh’s Prime Minister, Chandrabhan Brahman, violates this dictum with impunity:
"Panja dar panja–e–khuda daram
Manchey Parwaaye Mustafa daram"
(My hand is in the hand of God.
Why should I worry about Mohammad?)
When Punch magazine became the premier vehicle for English satire, the Urdu elite in India did not allow itself to be left behind. They proceeded to publish a satirical magazine with anti–colonial cartoons galore and proceeded to me it Awadh Punch! From the second half of the 19th century for a hundred years, everybody – statesmen, politicians, priests – was in the Awadh Punch firing line.
A verse became popular after the frequency of the P & O liners to Britain was stepped up.
"Chaley hain Sheikh kaabey ko;
Hum inglistan dekhenge,
Wo dekhen ghar khuda ka;
Hum khuda ki shaan dekhenge."
(The Mullah is travelling to Mecca;
I am England bound.
He wishes to see the house of God;
I am more interested in god’s wonders)
What adds exponentially to a feeling of helplessness these days is that several tragedies are brought into focus at the same time – a sort of competition in carge.
How can one compare the murder of French cartoonists with that of 136 Muslim school children in Peshawar? Although both sets of murderers – like hundreds of others in this dreadful decade – appear to have been driven by a similar sense of anger, or desperation.
Clearly, this horrendous attack, like all others, has a context. Our media has never developed the means to keep us informed of the catastrophe that is building up in Europe. The other day, in the central French town of Champlan, the Mayor refused permission for burial of a Roman infant. The incident raised a minor storm.
The ultra right wing, Dawn of Direct Democracy in the Czech Republic, has called on people to walk to "mosques with pigs and dogs" to show their disgust with Muslims. Angela Merkel has called for "counter" rallies against the growing number of anti–Muslim demonstrations in Dresden.
Muslim immigrants in Sweden, once the world’s most tolerant country, have invited such a backlash that mosques have been set on fire repeatedly.
The Balkans are on a boil. A giant Serb cross appeared on the hills behind Sarajevo as an act of Serbian assertion. Regular street battles are on between Albanians and Christians in Macedonia. The US–sponsored enclave of Kosovo has European troops protecting it in the midst of rampaging Serb tiolism.
All of these will serve another purpose soon: They will take focus away from the real Tsumi about to strike Greece, the mother of Western civilization. The Radical Left Party, Syriza, under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras, is knocking at the gates, come the election on January 25. That could set the stage for the unraveling of the European Union.
Interestingly, Stephane Charbonnier, the slain Editor of Charlie Hebdo, was a member of the Communist Party. Quite independent of the desired sectarian fallout, this is an attack on another European institution: the progressive, Left leaning intelligentsia. IANS
(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic issues, Saeed qvi can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are persol.)