My first book, My Friend Sancho, was published in May 2009, and went on to become the biggest selling debut novel released that year in India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and had earlier been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.
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Our Gods are so weak that they cannot defend themselves, so we must do it for them. FP Passport reports that a controversy has erupted in Bangladesh over the publication of a cartoon with the following accompanying text:
A man: What is your name?
Man: You should say “Mohammed Babu”. What’s is your father’s name?
Man: You should say “Mohammed X”. What is that in your lap?
Boy: Mohammed cat.
Pretty harmless, I would think—indeed, how can any cartoon be harmful?—but religious conservatives in Bangladesh are up in arms. The cartoonist, a 20-year-old kid, has reportedly been arrested, and the sub-editor of that humour section has been “terminated for carelessness.” (I’m presuming by ‘terminated’ they mean fired from his job, and nothing more sinister!) There are also calls to arrest the editor of the newspaper where the cartoon was published, the much-respected Matiur Rahman.
Commenting on it in that FP post, Blake Hounshell writes:
This story isn’t about hurt feelings; it’s about raw political power. [...] It’s a familiar pattern in Muslim countries ruled by authoritarian governments: Religious conservatives use religion cynically to embarrass the regime and whip up populist sentiment. Over time, they can force the government to make accommodating moves and concede elements of government to the clerics. And the state can’t exactly stand up for the principle of freedom of speech, because it’s usually no great shakes on that score, either.
This is a pattern that goes beyond Bangladesh and, indeed, beyond Muslim countries. In fact, it sounds quite familiar to me. You?