October 5, 2007

It’s amazing what race brings up …

AXN started showing "The Amazing Race" season 10 on satellite television over here yesterday. Of course, one of the first things I noticed was that they had a Muslim team in the race this time (not to mention a lot of other politically correct/ratings-oriented groups, but that’s another story).

Right off the bat, I was wondering how it was going to turn out both because of the current political climate in the USA and a majority of the people’s perceptions about Muslims and also because I had wondered myself watching previous episodes of "The Amazing Race" as to how I would conduct myself in the race if I was on it. There have been instances when contestants have had to eat things like fried grasshoppers that Muslims cannot eat due to our religious dietary restrictions. Would I eat the grasshoppers anyway just to win a million bucks? Do the producers take the religious restrictions of contestants into account when they set up challenges? I was hoping I could find some answers to these questions this season. Of course, then the Muslims got eliminated at the very first leg of the race :p

That probably would have been that and I’d probably have forgotten all about it if I hadn’t decided to check out the reactions of others to the first episode online. Now I know that a lot of Americans seem to think that they are engaged in some sort of war with Islam for some weird reason and so I should have expected the reactions I found. But still, I was surprised at the level of hatred and prejudice that was displayed online.

Posts like this, and this, and this, and this seem to indicate that Americans seriously believe that all Muslims are terrorists and that they will not be satisfied with anything but the total and utter destruction of America. There’s talk of Islamofacists, "Religion of Peace" (quotes theirs, not mine), revenge on an entire religion for an act of fanaticism, how the Muslims not shaking a woman’s hand is derogatory towards all women and so on and so forth.

In fact, I’m surprised that some consider Bilal and Sa’eed to be fundamentalists because they were dressed in "flowing Arab garments" and "tangly beards". I thought them to be less than fundamentalists – in fact, I was wondering about how well they practiced their faith since they seemed to have no trouble in simply standing up and praying in a dirty airport waiting room without even bothering to wash up for prayer :p But then again, I have no idea how much coaching there was (what? you thought reality shows were really real? :p) or if the two friends had decided to portray the "true face of Islam" to the world on their own or even if it was a mix of the two. Personally, I thought they were a bit too showy and seemed to be flaunting their religion for the camera and to think that God cares enough about whether you win a race on television is to think very little of God or way too much about yourself 🙂

Now don’t get me wrong. There are balanced stories about this particular episode. Places where people couldn’t care less whether Sa’eed and Bilal were Muslims or solipso-agnostic Martians from the moons of Phobos – entries like this and this. With no evidence to the contrary, I assume that these were written by Americans as well. What I find disturbing is the number of Americans who give into the paranoia and hatred and assume that an entire religion is out to get them. I wish they’d do the math: the population of the US is slightly over 300 million and there are over a billion Muslims in the world; if all of Islam wanted America taken out, it would be a really uneven battle 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:23 am  |  2 Comments

May 22, 2006


I have recently had several cyclical threads and entries where I posted back to other entries. I don’t particularly like doing that a lot but if unfortunately, here is another one :p This one’s about the Dan Simmons post (I talked previously about this here and here). Hopefully, I will not talk about this particular topic again but since I have contemplated much about Dan Simmons’ motives for his April message and since he promised to reveal all in his May message, I just had to comment on the May message 🙂

Basically, Dan seems to imply that the contents of the April message wasn’t his thoughts (and of course, he wasn’t that kind of person) but that the message was actually him presenting the viewpoints of various other individuals. As an explanation (or excuse) for this method, he goes to quote a few other people (again) saying that the only way to learn is to explore what goes counter to your beliefs. However, what struck me most about the whole message was the fact that Dan does not actually say what he thinks or feels or believes – he simply parrots other people (taking extracts from other works to supplement his message) and so seems to be saying, this is what others think. However, whether he’s actually asking people to make up their own minds, or is trying to make up their minds for them, remains slightly unclear.

One thing that does emerge as you read between the lines though, is that Dan Simmons has already made up his mind :p Dan Simmons, like so many others, seems to be convinced that there is an "Islamic" threat (or possibility of one). Sure, he throws around a few modifiers such as jihadists or Wahabbists from time to time but it is clear from the inferences he draws that he believes that Islam as a religion is aimed at sowing war and terror on the "infidels". He goes on to quote several verses from the Qur’an to support his point of view. What he forgets (and what most militant Muslims forget – or ignore for their own warped purposes) is that while the word is often translated as "infidel", what it actually means is "non-believer". It doesn’t sound as bad when you shout "Death to the non-believers!" though, does it? :p

I believe that the Qur’an is the word of God, given to his prophet – but that has nothing to do with this discussion. What is pertinent however, is that the chapters of the Qur’an were not revealed all at once. They were revealed at different times to deal with different situations. When a verse talks about "non-believers", it often as not is talking about *Arab* non-believers at that time as not. But of course, today, people twist it around (especially in translation since a word can have many different shades of meaning and the translator gets to pick which shade they want, even though that might differ from the original intent) and say it says "death to infidels" and that means Jews and Christians!

I am not trying to be an apologist for the terrorists who kill innocents in the name of Islam. That is wrong and there are no two sides to that. But what I do want to stress is the fact that though these people might call themselves Muslims, by the core beliefs of Islam, they are not really Muslims. So this is not an issue of Islam against the rest of the world or against the West but about human stupidity, greed, fear and prejudice against other humans. The biggest concern I have about Dan’s message is the fact that he is quick to label things. He labels the West as life-affirming and all of Islam (or most of it) as evil. This is fine and dandy if we lived in a rational world where people made up their minds by thinking about things logically. But no, we live in a world where people go about shooting people in turbans (no matter what their religion or nationality) because they might be Muslims – and mind you, this happened in the "life affirming" West :p

There are other things which are even worse which happens in the life affirming West that Dan ignores. But my point is not that the West is bad or that a country is bad or that a religion is bad – they are not. The problem is that people are not rational. They like to put labels like "us" and "them" on things because it makes it easy to know who to cheer and who to hate. When somebody who is supposed to know better (like the Islamic clerics that Dan talks about) comes along and tells them all these big name authors say that Islam is bad and that they are going to wipe us out, do you honestly believe that most of the people who read Dan’s message are going to stop to actually think if all of that makes logical sense? Or are they going to start hating something that they don’t even totally understand? Hating what we don’t know, we’ve never done that before, have we? :p

If you’re a writer, you should think about what you’re going to write. Perhaps try to present a balanced perspective. If you write a story and it sounds like vitriol, maybe you shouldn’t try to defend it by saying that before the World Wars, an anti-German story would have sounded like vitriol too. That you’re just pushing the envelope. If you’re a writer, you know that there is also something called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, Dan says at the beginning of his May message that if you’re expecting polemics, apologetics, politics or reinforcements of your own prejudices, that you would be disappointed because his was a writer’s website. But then again, I thought a writer’s job was to write about what he feels – not what others think. But that’s probably just me :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:28 am  |  2 Comments

April 18, 2006

Conceptions, inceptions and misconceptions

I’ve been having a rather interesting debate on one of the forums I frequent. And it’s again about that message from Dan Simmons 🙂 Usually, I don’t like cross-posting since it feels a bit like promoting your own point of view or encouraging your cronies to go over and bash somebody up on your behalf :p However, since this particular conversation is so convoluted and drawn out, that I don’t think I could give any idea of all that it encompasses without actually sending somebody over there to read it. If that’s your cup of tea, of course.

Now the central point in the debate that has been running through today is that this particular person seems to think that there is no difference between those individuals who commit all sorts of dastardly deeds in the name of Islam and true Muslims who actually follow the Qur’an and the prophets teachings. Of course, she often mentions that she believes that Islam is not all bad and that it has the potential for good etc. But she keeps coming back to saying that Islam today is militant and that Muslims everywhere have not risen up to cast out the terrorists who commit heinous atrocities in the name of Islam and so that it is the fault of Islam in its entirety – not just a few misguided individuals.

As the discussion progressed, she threw out terms like dhimmi and Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb. To be honest, I had not heard the terms before. However, she was kind enough to provide me with wikipedia links and I noticed something. The wikipedia entry clearly states "Dar al-Islam and its associated terms are not found in the two most basic works of Islam, the Qur’an and the Hadith". Now Muslims are supposed to shape their lives based on the Qur’an and the Hadith. Those define the core rules for Islam. But these words that she tosses out to indicate how virulent and vile Islam is are not part of the core of Islam! I realized at that point that she obviously had not read the wikipedia entry herself or had not understood the implications of what that single line in wikipedia actually means.

Either way, the way I saw it, here was somebody who was talking about radical Islam and how Islam spawns (or at least nurtures) terrorism and so on but she had no real clue as to what Islam was all about. She had not actually bothered to read the core teachings – instead, she relied on what others said about Islam. At least, that was my conclusion. Of course, I might be wrong :p But it still begs the question, how many people are out there who know nothing of Islam beyond what they are told by hate mongers and other ill-informed people? How many people hate (or fear) something without actually knowing what it is that they hate? But then again, we always fear the unknown, don’t we?

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Posted by Fahim at 6:56 am  |  1 Comment

April 5, 2006

Chrononaut chronicles

Yesterday while meandering through the web, I came across a message from writer Dan Simmons. Apparently, Dan Writes a message to his fans every once in a while but this one seemed to be slightly darker in tone. I say "seemed" because I know nothing of Dan’s politics nor his intentions. All that was there on the site was a rather bleak message which seemed to hint at total annihilation as the only possible solution to the "Islamic menace".

I was originally going to post a message about writers and their responsibility to their readership here. About how whatever we write and how we ourselves mean it, that it could be taken a completely different way by somebody else. Dan’s message could have been a satire along the lines of Jonathan Swift’s "A Modest Proposal". Or it could have been an April Fool’s joke with the traveller’s final three words being "Happy April Fools!" :p But I cannot know what Dan Simmons intended. All I have are the words on the website and how the words themselves are interpreted.

The words on the page sent me off on another hunt. Or rather, one word – "dhimmi". I am a Muslim but I had not heard this word before. And yet, supposedly this was a word which had great meaning to Muslims. I looked at Wikipedia and found an article that had its neutrality and factual accuracy questioned. I searched Google and came across hundreds of thousands of pages but the interesting thing was that most of the pages seemed to be by non-Muslims on the topic. The only Muslim site on the first two pages that I found was Islamic propaganda rather than an impartial article – I wasn’t interested in propaganda. I wanted the true account of things and the more I searched, less I found in the way of truth. Opinions, sure. Conjecture, yes. But facts were scarce.

I then went on Dan Simmons’ forums to see what the regulars there had to say. I saw a whole bunch of people saying that Islam was a militant religion, that nobody wished Muslims ill but if things came to that, they’d beat the Muslims down "out of need". Truth be told, there were those who opposed this point of view as well but it seemed as if that was the minority. Now I’m a Muslim. I’ve never wished ill upon Christians or Jews or people of any other religion. I believe that God lets us choose our own path and whether we choose good or bad depends on us – not our religion. After all my web browsing, I feel a great weariness, a sadness. Why can’t people see that the issue is not with different religions or ideologies but with people?

I am not angry at the people who will not see the wrongs on their own side as people of a particular nation or people belonging to a particular religion. But I do feel anger at our own stupidity, arrogance and blindness. We always believe that somehow "we" are right and that "they" are wrong. We keep finding a new "us" and a "them". It’s as if all humanity can do is break into ever smaller groups and keep fighting each other till we dwindle away into nothingness. Is that our fate?

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Posted by Fahim at 7:12 am  |  2 Comments

March 18, 2006

Are we flawed?

I came across this particular view on a board that I visit that had a really wrong resonance. This guy said that he was a man of faith (doesn’t matter which faith to the subject at hand :p) but that the believed that humanity was utterly and irredeemably flawed and that the only way they can find salvation is by appealing to God. Basically, he was saying that humanity finds salvation in spite of themselves through their faith in God, that God uplifts them. He went on to say that we as humans are incapable of any "good deeds" because all our deeds (even the good ones) are done out of selfish motivations and that a truly selfless act was impossible.

Now I believe in God and consider myself a man of faith. And don’t ask me "Which God?" since that’s going to lead to a whole different discussion :p My sister-in-law once asked me that and I said "There is only one God!". She looked at me for a moment, nodded and laughed. I don’t know if she got it in the same sense I meant it or if she thought that I meant it in the Islamic sense. Didn’t really matter actually since religion, as far as I’m concerned, is a personal thing. Each of us should be free to follow our beliefs and our path to God. We might take different paths but I believe that we all end up at the same destination.

But I digress. The opinion stated on the bulletin board certainly is not the view of God (or humanity) that I have. I believe that one of the greatest gifts (and curses) that God gave us is free will. We have a choice in our actions. We can decide to do something good for any reason, we can decide not to act or we can do something bad. As far as I am concerned, the motivation (whether it is selfish or not) does not detract from a good deed. I believe that God gave us the opportunity to save ourselves – or not. I have no illusions about the goodness of humanity generally but at the same time, I have great faith in the capacity in humanity for goodness (or even greatness) in specific cases. I know of many, many people who have gone out of their way to do something nice, friendly, helpful or kind in my own case. They had nothing to gain from that action and I certainly would not have called it selfish in their part.

On the other hand, I am not sure we understand selfless correctly. What exactly is selfless? Doesn’t it mean that there is an absence of self? So if you are to do something selflessly, are we saying that we did it without any selfish motivation or that there was nothing of our self involved in the action? If the former, I agree with the usage of "selfless", if the latter, then I am afraid no human is capable of a selfless act. Because if there was no self, then there is no "I".

In the final analysis, my personal belief is that we find our own salvation and our path to God. But then again, as I’ve said before, religion (and the path we take in life) are intensely personal choices. So YMMV 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:21 am  |  4 Comments

February 19, 2006

The religious scams …

This one is going to be a bit of a circular reference :p Funky Dung posted an entry where he linked to a post made by me and in going back and reading his entry, I came across the Apostates of Islam.

When I first read the site, I was like, "OK, this seems to be by Muslims who’ve gotten tired of all the negativity attached to Islam at the moment". I didn’t agree with their viewpoint but everybody is free to make their own choices, right? 🙂 The reason I didn’t agree with their viewpoint was because if you give up your religion just because people have misconceptions about it and because there are people in your own religion who don’t understand what the religion is all about, then it just means that you didn’t have enough faith or didn’t truly understand your religion either. However, religion is all about faith and you should follow the path that you truly believe in.

But then, I saw the link that the Apostates of Islam posted for Muslims. When I went to this page and read what they had to say, my conception of this site changed rather dramatically – but probably not in the way the site owners intended it to :p This site is certainly not created by "former" Muslims. In fact, I don’t believe any Muslims had any hand in the site at all. If they did, then they are as equally ignorant of Islam as the terrorists whom they claim to abhor. The site is basically religious propaganda :p It starts with a twist on a Quranic verse which is supposed to cleverly reveal to Muslims how wrong Islam is. If the Muslim is uninformed, then perhaps it will have effect. The verse they quote is from Surah At Taubah – verse 5. This verse is supposed to indicate that Muslims are supposed to kill non-believers at every opportunity.

The fact that most people ignore, either conveniently or out of ignorance, is that every Quranic verse was revealed for a specific event or under some context. This particular verse gives some of the context if you read from verse 1 – instead of just taking verse 5. It says that there was a peace treaty between the Muslims and the Mushriks (pagans) of Makkah. This treaty was violated by the Mushriks of Makkah. A period of four months was given to the Mushriks of Makkah to make amends. Then comes verse 5 about killing of disbelievers, which pertains to only a particular period when the disbelievers had rejected a treaty. To draw this particular event out and to say that you are supposed to kill all non-believers for all eternity is just plain ridiculous. But then again, as P. T. Barnum never said, "there is a sucker born every minute" and the Apostates of Islam, amongst others, seems to be simply trying to draw the newborns in :p

The problem is not with Islam, or with any other religion in the world. The problem is with humanity. We find it easier to wallow in ignorance, in prejudice, in hatred and in bigotry than to actual think for ourselves or to understand our fellow human beings. So if anybody ever wants to start an Apostates of Humanity site, then sign me right up … but then again, maybe not … I’d rather try to change humanity than to leave humanity behind :p


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Posted by Fahim at 7:44 am  |  No Comments

February 11, 2006

Cartoons and chaos

I have been staying away from commenting on this issue because I don’t believe I can be totally objective in my commentary. My religion is close to my heart and while I would try to be objective in my commentary, I can’t be a 100% certain that I was totally and completely objective in what I said. However, I went to mosque yesterday for Friday prayers and the sermon included references to the whole cartoon row and I must say that I totally disagreed with some of the comments by the Imam of the day and felt I had to write this here just so that there are opinions to the contrary – opinions which hopefully present a more balanced view.

Firstly, one of the tenets I believe Muslims should live by are words straight from the Qur’an – specifically Surah Al Kafiroon.The verses basically say, "you believe what you believe and I/we believe what we believe, you have your path and I/we have my/our path". This, to me at least, is one of the central rules of guidance for Muslims – both in dealing with others of different faith as well as other Muslims who decide to take a different path. We cannot try to enforce our ways, our beliefs on others nor does God want us to. Faith, any faith, is about belief – it might be belief in God, belief in an afterlife, belief in rebirth, belief that there is nothing after death but it is about some form of belief. This belief is personal to us. So why would we go worrying about what others say or do regarding our beliefs? Their beliefs (and actions) are theirs. Unless they forcibly try to stop us from believing what we believe or somehow try to coerce us into believing what they believe, what they do should not have any impact on what we believe. We should, as Muslims (and human beings), learn to co-exist with those of other beliefs because none of us will ever believe the same thing – even amongst Muslims, you have differences in belief. So why cry about the differences in belief that somebody else has?

Yesterday’s sermon started with something good. About the fact that yesterday, the 10th day of the first month according to the Islamic calendar, was a holy day for Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. Now I don’t know if this still is the case – this particular incident which was related was from the prophet’s (PBUH) time. At that time, both Christians and Jews had fasted on this day because that was the day Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and defeated the forces of Pharaoh. This again illustrated something that I strongly believe in – whether Muslims, Christians or Jews, we believe in the same God We all believe in the God of Moses, so unless there were three separate Moseses, we believe in the same God! So whether it’s prophet Mohammed (PBUH) or Jesus or Moses getting caricatured, we should be equally offended. (Yes, I realize that there are other issues in the case of a depiction of the prophet (PBUH) but again, that falls under your beliefs/my beliefs).

Where the preacher diverged from Islamic tenets, (in my opinion of course) was when he started with such a good foundation and then went on to say that we should do what we can to oppose those who publish the cartoons by boycotting their goods. If he’d built upon what he’d started, said that we all follow the same God and that while there might be those who might do stupid things either for the sake of publicity, stirring things up or simply because they believe they are doing the right thing, that what we had to keep in mind was that our faith was ours and that we couldn’t force anybody else to believe what we did, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with him. But he didn’t say that. In a way, I’m glad that Islam does not have a clergy – because probably a lot more people would have blindly accepted what he said because he was "authority" if we’d had a clergy.

As far as I’m concerned, Muslims have three God given things that dictate our path – the Qur’an, the prophet’s (PBUH) hadeeth and our brains. We should try to interpret the first two using the last and decide our course of action instead of being told by somebody else what is right and what is wrong. If we all learned to do that, we’d have far fewer problems from Muslims as a group both within the Muslim community and outside. But again, being human, I am not sure we’ll ever get there …

July 26, 2003

Ludlum revisited …

Certain comments by people who read my last entry on Ludlum and his latest, "The Janson Directive", as well as my own perceptions on further reading the book have impelled me to write this further rant :p Laurie’s comment made me realize that I was misleading both the reader and myself when I said that the mis-portrayal of Sri Lanka was one of my concerns .. I realized I wasn’t being honest there. Yes, the mis-portrayal of Sri Lanka did tie into the problem I had with the plot for the book, but it was again concerned with the whole fact that Ludlum decided to take an existing scenario which would have served his purposes just as well and to convert it totally into a plot which would (once again) vilify Muslims. I am a Muslim, I don’t believe that one should kill anybody whether they bey of your own faith or of a different faith to justify your views and I neither does Islam preach that. In fact, Islam preaches tolerance for all religions, all races. Unfortunately, people always tend to pervert something good to their own uses and still claim that they are following the original … I would think that people can see this difference but unfortunately most people in the world can’t since they prefer to be told what they should think and so, their perceptions are moulded by what they see on the news, hear on the radio or read in a book. Which is where I have a problem with Ludlum because he has subscribed to every stereotypical anti-Muslim image he can come up with and I really don’t think he needed to here – he could have taken a different route by talking about the actual terrorist threat in Sri Lanka or moved the locale to his fictional land of Anura but kept the rest of the details the same – he borrows heavily enough from Sri Lanka for the rest of his stuff to say that he couldn’t have done that.

For instance, he refers to Cinnamon Gardens where Janson lives with his wife in Anura – this is actually an area Colombo. Then there are all the described terrorist attacks – the killing of the country’s leader by a suicide bomber (the only thing changed was the title – Prime Minister instead of President), the bombing of the World Trade Center building (renamed to International Trade Center) and even the descriptions of the terrorists with cyanide capsules in a chain around their necks – all of these are identical to what really happened in Sri Lanka. So why does he have to go and make the terrorists themselves Muslims? Is there any logic to it at all except to cash in on the existing paranoia about Muslims? Is this the way a responsible writer should behave? I don’t know .. maybe hatred and money rule in this world and there isn’t any responsibility any longer.

There are other details – such as the bombing of the American Embassy in Anura by the terrorists .. that never happened in Sri Lanka but that should really get the fires of hatred stoked shouldn’t it? After all, aren’t American lives sacrosanct? Then there are the other subtle digs – the terrorist leader has sex with an American woman and then performs prayer using her pillow-slip as a prayer mat. How low can you go? If the leader is a devout Muslim, he wouldn’t be praying immediately after sex – because there are certain rules about prayer and you cannot perform prayer just after sex … And why a pillow-slip? You mean he couldn’t find anything at all bigger than that to perform his prayers on? But then again, I guess Ludlum isn’t really interested in details – just the shock value. And of course, the terrorist leader (Caliph as he is known) has a superstition about bandicoot rats – even though he was educated at an American College mind you.

Am I being really thin skinned here? Am I protesting only because I’m a Muslim myself? I don’t know .. I usually don’t like to talk about Islam and the general perception by Muslims that Islam itself is being vilified because I think that’s a bit too paranoid. But then again, when I see something like Ludlum’s novel – especially since it would have been released soon after 9/11, I can’t but think that there is something to all that after all. I am not objective enough to judge but this is what occurred to me as I read further. Oh yes, Johan mentioned that he’s Dutch .. just had to clarify that the comment about the Dutch in the previous entry was an ironic reference to the way Ludlum might have reasoned it :p And here some history might be useful – the Dutch did rule Sri Lanka for a while but it was actually the British who ruled Sri Lanka for over a hundred years and from whom we finally gained independence in 1948 – but in "The Janson Directive" there is no mention of the British – it’s the Dutch governor who gets assassinated … I found that kind of interesting .. Anyway, my rants notwithstanding, you should make up your own mind :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:57 pm  |  No Comments

March 24, 2003

Of edits, creativity and bosses …

Things were extremely hectic last week and while I thought of writing something here several times, I just didn’t seem to find the time to do so. So what was I so busy with? It was the edit for the shoot that I’d gone on the week before – the one about the Sinhalese family living in a Muslim village. Though I’d planned to do the story in a particular way – by exposing the inconsistencies in the stories of both sides and showing (or at least trying to …) that in a conflict like this, people lose their perspectives – the actualities of editing and time constraints forced me to do it as a straight story. Basically, the story that we’re supposed to broadcast is only five minutes long and I just couldn’t fit all that into five minutes and had to be content with just a retelling of the incidents that led up to the problem.

Even with all of that, I was happy with the final result but then my bosses decided to come in and rape it in their infinite wisdom :p One of my bosses is the managing director and the other is the editor-in-chief. Now the editor-in-chief (EC) has many years of experience and I can’t claim to be anywhere close to her as far as being a television producer/director goes but I do believe that each person has their own vision for a story and that you should be wise enough to let things be unless there is something so dramatically wrong that it cannot be broadcast at all. But not so with my boss the EC – she believes that all the shots should be the way that *she* thinks they should be and so she sits down after I’d done the edit and changed all the shots. Now I’d heard complaints from other people along this line saying that there was no need for creativity (and no room for it either) since the EC always changes your shots but this was the first time it happened to me.

Then the managing director (MD) comes in and he wants to change the wording of the narration since he thinks that Muslims are being portrayed badly. I had a big argument about what he wanted to do since he basically wanted to point fingers and say specific things about the Sinhalese and the Muslims in this incident. I didn’t think that was right, the incident was over and I didn’t want to stir up more trouble … plus, I was sure that the MD was being influenced by the fact that he himself is a Muslim – which is something a lot of Muslim’s in Sri Lanka (or for that matter anywhere else in the world …) can’t seem to get away from. They can’t seem to realize that first and foremost thing to being a Muslim is to realize that you are part of the human race – instead, they cling to this false identity of being a part of a subset of the race called "the Muslims" and seem to think that others don’t matter as much. To me, this automatically makes all these people non-Muslims.

Be that as may be, we argued back and forth and I finally agreed to change the narration slightly but still without going into specifics. I later understood what set the MD off but I still think that he really is not looking at this correctly. In my closing narration, I said something along the lines of "this kind of situation is going to continue to happen when a majority and a minority are involved. It can only be resolved when the majority realizes that they have certain responsibilities and the minority realizes that they have to make certain compromises in order to live in harmony". Now I was simply thinking in terms of majorities and minorities and in this specific case, the majority were actually the Muslims but my boss kept on saying that I was saying that the Muslims have to compromise and I kept on arguing that wasn’t what I said. I later realized that to him, the Muslims would always be the minority because he thinks in such terms, so to him what I said simply meant that the Muslims must compromise irrespective of the situation :p Ah well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to change his opinion but I told him that I’d put in some wording to show that what I said applied in general rather than specifically and he seemed to be mollified but I don’t think he’d still be happy if he saw how I changed the narration :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:15 am  |  2 Comments

February 21, 2003

Of doves and hawks …

I first intended to make this entry a few days ago after having accidentally browsed over to the blog of somebody unknown to me. This person was so rabidly in favour of a war with Iraq and seemed to be going after anti-war protestors with such gusto, and the commentors on her site seemed to be of her own ilk and I just felt that I had to speak out about the phenomena. I mean about all these people sitting safely at home and throwing around labels like republican, democrat, liberal, right-wing, left-wing but in the end talking about killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to justify their political leanings. OK, maybe I’m a bit harsh there but all this political haranguing is not going to help any of us if it comes to a war. But before I get into that, I would probably have linked to this person’s site originally if I’d written this entry when I intended to write it but since then I’ve been to her site again and she says that she’s tired of the hate mail and people linking to her without understanding what she’s about. Personally, I feel that if you write about what you care and you do so without malice, you shouldn’t worry about what other people think – it should be your opinion about yourself that matters to you first and foremost. Plus, she has such slogans as "First Iraq, Then France" on her site and so I don’t see how she can claim to be a non-biased objective person and that she needs to be understood before people vilify her :p Whatever the case maybe, I decided that if she didn’t like to be linked to, then it wasn’t right for me to link to her – whatever my objections to her comments (and even more than hers, those of her commenters …) may be. But I will comment on some of the comments on her site and please bear with me for saying something but not providing any links to verify that what I said is true …

There were several things which set me off at this blog that I’m talking about – the first and foremost was the above mentioned "First Iraq, then France" slogan. These people claim to be objective, open-minded individuals who don’t really want other people to die but see no other alternative except for war. If they were as open minded as they claim to be, I don’t think they’d want to grind anybody who opposes their point of view under their heels – which is what the comment about France amounts to … at least to me. Some might argue that it is funny and that might be why it was on this blog but I’d say that it is still insensitive and I don’t see much difference these people’s attitudes and that of the Nazis, for instance. I don’t hate people who have an opposed view – I just hope that I can show them my point of view and that maybe they will understand where I’m coming from. Whereas they (or at least according to the slogan) seem to think that anybody opposed to their point of view needs to be considered an enemy. Where does that come from? Can you really call yourself objective after such invective?

Then there were several people who commented on this blogger’s post vilifying anti-war protestors. One guy said that he doesn’t hate anybody – Muslims, Iraqis whatever – but that they (meaning the US) needed to bomb Iraq because all the Iraqis hated him and his little daughter and wanted to slit their throats! My friend Robin says that you should respond to such utterly insane comments by being even more over the top like saying "Yeah, and we will disembowel you and use your head as a football" or something like that … But I don’t know … I feel that on one hand you are stooping to their level and on another, you lose the chance to reach that person in case there is even a slim chance of still reaching them through all this misinformation/hatred they seem to have surrounded themselves with. I told this particular guy that most Iraqi’s probably couldn’t care less about him or his little daughter because they were just trying to get through their day to day lives, just like him or me or any of us. He says that he’s spoken to several Iraqi’s in person (or maybe online I forget which now …) but I don’t see how he could make a blanket statement like "they all want to kill my little daughter" if he really knew any Iraqi’s.

Incidentally, this guy claimed to be a marine and said that what us "civilians" don’t understand about bombing is that the army does not go in and indiscriminately bomb everything – that it was all about precision work. I asked him whether this was the same precision work which resulted in "malfunctioning" missiles killing civilians in Afghanistan but of course, there was no answer to that. But one thing that seemed to come out of these comments was that a lot of people seemed to think that the anti-war protests are actually either anti-Bush, or anti-Semitic (this one really floors me … but more on this later) or anti-American. And a lot of these people seem to have the belief that anybody who is anti-war thinks that Saddam is an angelic choir-boy! What rubbish! Of course, we … OK, I can’t speak for everybody but at least I, know that Saddam is not free of blame but then again, who is? Can the US government claim to be free of guilt – of having bloody hands in having dabbled in the matters of so many other countries just because they wanted to control things? of having trained Osama Bin Laden and then had him turned against them? of having provided Saddam weapons when he was fighting against Iran? I don’t think so! But most of the above mentioned "hawks" seem to either dismiss all of this as "it’s America’s duty to make the world safe and spread democracy" (has anybody asked who asked America to do all of this except for the US government and it’s rhetoric?) or as blatant anti-American propaganda. What I oppose in this war (or in any war for that matter) is the unnecessary killing (mostly of civilians and bystanders – that often quoted "collateral damage") of people for political/economical/ideological reasons.

Then there was the whole anti-Semitic thing. I don’t even know where that came from … though I can guess. While it could be that some people again imagined things where nothing was (or thought that pro-Iraqi/Arab *has to* be anti-Semitic), it is also possible that some of the Muslim anti-ware demonstrators carried anti-Semitic messages and that started the whole Jewish community going. People, this is not about Islam or Judaism! If it comes to that, Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in the same God – or at least should! Don’t believe me? Most people don’t, they even argue loudly about this and say that this can never be but think … Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in Moses as a prophet and unless Moses was a polytheist (which would shake the foundations of all three religions), his God has to be God of all three religions – yes, the specifics might be different but the basics are the same. So why do Muslims, Christians and Jews fight each other in the name of their religion and God? Think people, think! I’ve been hearing this rubbish from Muslims for a long time about how the Qur’an says that Christians and Jews are our enemies (utter rubbish!) and now I hear that some Jews are saying that according to the Torah, all Arabs must be killed! I can only say, that if all these people followed the spirit of their religion instead of scrabbling through the words, they might find peace both within themselves and out in the world …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:21 am  |  1 Comment

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