Kashmiris on a different road: anti-Islam film, protests and beyond

Kashmiri protestors peacefully registering their protest against the anti-islam film that was also 'screened at a local school by the Indian army' . Photo: Yawar Kabli/Kashmir Dispatch

By Inshah Malik

Kashmir, its people and their passions often get sidelined, when a swarm of angry protestors across the West Asia flood at the American embassies registering their discontent against ‘disrespect shown to the Holy Prophet of Islam’. Kashmiris are well updated about the events concerning Muslims at large and those issues have varied implications in their socio-political context. Perhaps, Kashmir is now officially a place where ‘Islamophobic’ videos are featured in exclusive gatherings of children at schools. Being away from media glare, Zionism works in cozy couches without having to get bogged down with anger of the world, which in any case is directed elsewhere. On September 13, in Kashmir’s Northern district of Kupwara, the anti-Islam film enjoyed full right to free speech, without even considering ‘viewer discretion’ as any pre-requisite. The film was screened by army officers in the village school to probably have the young children’s mind made numb by exactly showing them what they shouldn’t see. To improve their acceptance to dilute their morals that otherwise feeds into their resistance towards the Indian rule in Kashmir. The Indian army has yet again employed the methodology of ‘corruption of mind’ as a possible remedy for breaking down the demand for freedom that Kashmiris have voiced from last sixty years.

‘Freedom of expression’, as the modern world will have us believe is a human right but only wisdom can guide us to real joys of it. Freedom of expression comes with limitations particularly concerning its ‘method and schema’ in which it is used and also in having an assessment of how audiences would take it. The anti-Islam film in Kashmir as many have not viewed it but reading itsreviews tells us doesn’t hold any ground, not in terms of production, narration or any philosophical disagreement.Nakoula, Steve Klein, a rightwing militia Muslim hater – and Alan Robers porn movie director – this combination created this concoction of a ‘Film’ targeting the Muslim community. This poor film has managed to meet strong resentment across the Muslim world. If you are still wondering why, — then some of these answers might help. Islamic faith teaches respect for all Prophets and messengers of God, No Muslim is allowed to mock, jeer any of them and therefore, often Muslims expect the same seriousness for religious figures from other communities too. Swearing in the name of Jesus may be common among Christians but for Muslims it is a nightmare of a thought to do so. Another belief that is also centered on Islamic morality is that one must not accept something immoral, as acceptance will lead to relaxation in the way we treat religious figures. Some Muslims say: “If we don’t react with anger, ‘they’ would make ‘disrespect for the Prophet’ a common occurrence”. Whether or not this holds ground, it does depict the insecurity and sensitivity among Muslims about their religious figures. Given the facts the film clearly falls out of the paradigm of freedom of expression and moves into a pre-planned and designed category of Islamophobia, rejection and protest sounds justified.

Kashmiris understand this ‘Islamophobia’ differently than the rest of the Muslims; they have faced with it in a modified exuberant ‘Hindutva’ style, which is a concoction of Islamophobia clubbed with historical animosity between Hindus andMuslims, which has led to designing the Hindu cultural nationalism. In Kashmir, the hegemonic state has its own religious shop keepers. The Grand Mufti Bashirudin Ahmed, who enjoys the patronage of the state in holding the place of religious authority and religious diktats through a specific Sufi interpretation that state has often advocated as a lesser evil or more tolerant model of Islam in Kashmir. The Grand Mufti fell into a moral abyss by asking the people of Kashmir to drive out “Americans from Kashmir and also attack them as a mark of protest against the Anti-Islam Film”. This hate infested judgmental statement of a state appointed Grand Mufti, on Times of India newspaper finds Islamophobic rants spammed all across its page where no one defends Mufti’s suggestion to chase away Americans from Kashmir as ‘freedom of expression’. Although, Mufti is still representative of ‘less dangerous’ Islam, such an irresponsible hate comment from Grand Mufti in Kashmir goes on to raise questions about the state promoted notions of ‘Sufi Islam as less dangerous’ and more adaptable to secular polity of India, when on the other hand Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the pro-freedom leader, not only condemned Mufti’s statement but also asked people to exercise utmost restraint with regards to registering the protest.

In the fragile Kashmir’s social fabric where everything is dominated by militarism, Kashmiris often astonish us by braving all odds to stay up to date with the world politics despite being almost the fourth world of our time grappling with challenges of neo-colonialism. Kashmiris showed anger in a positive way and also engaged in sound criticism of the film all over the social media. If the message needs to get out of Kashmir to rest of the world, it is this ‘Kashmiris have emerged holding new intellectual insights for Muslims today.

Inshah Malik is a researcher, writer and an activist from Kashmir; she published her research on ‘Impact of conflict on women in Kashmir’ in 2010. Currently, she is writing her Phd thesis on the subject of Muslim women’s agency in Kashmir’s freedom protest. She has also written extensively on various issues concerning the movement, human rights etc. She also runs a women’s collaborative that works for ‘rights of Kashmiri women’ in the Militarism infested culture of lawlessness. 

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