Archive for June 21st, 2010

The curious case of Zakir Naik & Shekhar Gupta

21 June 2010

The gentleman on the right of the frame wants India to be ruled by Shariat laws. He recommends death for homosexuals. He supports Osama bin Laden if he is “fighting the enemies of Islam”. He says revealing clothes make women more susceptible to rape.

Yet, the gentleman on the left, Shekhar Gupta, introduced him as the “rockstar of tele-evangelism” in March 2009, on his NDTV show Walk the Talk:

“…but surprise of surprises, he is not preaching what you would expect tele-evangelists to preach. He is preaching Islam, modern Islam, and not just Islam but his own interpretation of all the faiths around the world.”

In February this year, the paper edited by the gentleman on the left, the Indian Express, ranked the gentleman on the right 89th on its list of the most powerful Indians in 2010, ahead of  Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, with large numbers dripping all over:

“His sermons on Peace TV-English boast of a viewership of 100 million. The channel is aired in 125 countries. Peace TV Urdu has 50 million viewers. He has given 1,300 public talks including 100 in 2009, 10-day peace conference attened by 2 lakh…”

Now, with the British government announcing that the gentleman of such affection—the gentleman on the right, Dr Zakir Naik—will not be allowed into Britain because of numerous comments that are evidence of “unacceptable behaviour”, the journalist-author Sadanand Dhume writes in The Wall Street Journal:

“If you’re looking for a snapshot of India’s hapless response to radical Islam, then look no further than Naik. In India, the 44-year-old Dr. Naik—a medical doctor by training and a televangelist by vocation—is a widely respected figure, feted by newspapers and gushed over by television anchors….

“When the doctor appears on a mainstream Indian news channel, his interviewers tend to be deferential. Senior journalist and presenter Shekhar Gupta breathlessly introduced his guest last year as a “rock star of televangelism” who teaches “modern Islam” and “his own interpretation of all the faiths around the world.”

“A handful of journalists—among them Praveen Swami of The Hindu, and the grand old man of Indian letters, Khushwant Singh—have questioned Dr. Naik’s views, but most take his carefully crafted image of moderation at face value.”

But the Indian Express is, if nothing else, extremely touchy when its judgments are questioned.

With Dhume’s article doing the rounds, it has run an editorial in response to the British decision, curiously titled “Talk is Cheap”:

“By disallowing Zakir Naik from delivering his lecture in Birmingham, Britain has simply made him a cause and handed him a megaphone, ensuring that his voice is amplified on blogs, social networks and other forums where disenfranchised and angry Muslims gather.

“This is not to say that Naik’s televangelism is not entirely free of objectionable or sometimes plain ridiculous content…. Naik is simply one corner in a larger field, and his ideas have been debated, endorsed or demolished, as the case may be, on very public platforms…. Words must be fought with words alone, not clumsy state action.

“Zakir Naik talks of ideas that some might abhor, but some others take all too seriously. Not permitting open discourse is to constrict the free play of disagreeement and disputation.”

Photograph: courtesy NDTV 24×7

Read the full column: The trouble with Dr Zakir Naik

Follow Sadanand Dhume on Twitter

Has R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

21 June 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: A question mark hangs over India’s most famous exclamation mark after a further slip in health of Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman, the iconic cartoonist of The Times of India.

The 86-year-old Laxman, who has drawn cartoons for ToI for 63 years, has been airlifted to Bombay, reportedly after suffering a “mild stroke”, and is receiving treatment at the Breach Candy hospital, family sources say.

(A report in The Times of India says he suffered three mini-strokes between Thursday and Saturday.)

Already a shadow of his former self after a first stroke seven years ago which affected his left hand, R.K. Laxman, as he is known to newspaper readers, was first admitted to the Sahyadri hospital in Poona, where he currently lives, but was airlifted to Bombay on Sunday evening.

(A PTI report in The Hindu says the three mild strokes have affected the right side of his body as also his speech.)

Mysore-born Laxman was last spotted at the engagement ceremony of his grand-niece in Bombay earlier this year.

Despite his first stroke, Laxman returned to draw the “You Said It!” pocket cartoon for The Times of India every morning, although the state of his health showed in the scraggly lines and often times in the cartoon being desultorily buried in the inside pages.

On days he doesn’t come up with a cartoon, ToI dips into its archives.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

Look who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

External reading: The Ramon Magsaysay foundation citation

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