SHEHLA RASHID CONTROVERSIAL HATE SPEECH/STATUS In FACEBOOK
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What is hate speech? What hate speech is not.
A few years ago, a prominent (upper-caste Hindu woman) journalist tweeted: “Ram was an asshole”, referring to Lord Ram’s treatment of Sita, of having suspected her chastity, etc. Immediately, she was castigated, endlessly abused by right-wing Hindutvawadi trolls, branded as a whore of Pakistanis, issued rape threats, etc. They said she engaged in hate speech. She might have hurt sentiments of Ram’s supporters, sure, but it was not “hate speech”, in the strict sense of the term. All progressives stood by the journalist unflinchingly, upholding her right to offend.
Obviously, the trolls would not appreciate that what THEY were engaging in was actual hate speech against a living woman (not against a dead religious figure). We know that hate speech against women or sexual minorities is never recognised as hate speech at all, and is totally justified as a punishment for hurting “religious sentiments” — beca
use, religious sentiments are the only “sentiments” that exist; women, sexual minorities, transgenders, disabled, etc. do not have sentiments and can be abused at will!!
Now, did she really engage in hate speech against Hindus?
I have a few thoughts and a limited point to make about this- limited, because I’m not giving away my dissertation topic in this post itself! Contrary to what Bhakts say, I do study 😀
1) Hateful speech is not necessarily hate speech. There’s a distinction. Example:
“I hate Modi.” — it can be termed as hateful, but it does not technically qualify as hate speech, because there is no imminent threat of violence.
“I hate Modi, therefore Modi should be beheaded/killed for a reward.” — in front of an audience of 10,000 who are holding swords outside Modi’s house — qualifies as hate speech.
2) Hatred for a certain religious figure is not necessarily hate speech. It can be blasphemy, but not necessarily hate speech, unless said in a context where imminent violence based on the statement is a real possibility. Example:
“Ram was an asshole.” ≠ hate speech.
“Mohammed was a pedophile.” ≠ hate speech.
“Mohammed was a rapist, so all Muslims are rapist.” = hate speech. [incitement to discrimination]
“Is katuey ko hamare hawale kardo; isko subah tak gayab kar dete hain.”, said by those who assaulted Najeeb, in presence of a crazed mob of over 40 ABVP goons = hate speech.
“Gay people should be killed, because a book says so.” = hate speech.
“Kashmiris are pigs and should be bombed en masse.” = hate speech.
“All Hindus living in Lahore should be killed.” = hate speech. [incitement to violence in a context where violence based on the statement is imminent]
“Muslims living in India are haramzade.” = hate speech. [incitement to discrimination in a context where discrimination based on the statement is imminent, and already present]
“This Muslim bitch should be raped.” = hate speech [incitement to violence in a society where majority of the women women are in real danger of being raped, & Muslim women are likely to be raped during a riot-like situation.]
3) Can historical figures who lived in the past be evaluated in terms of principles that we cherish today? Now, my position on the subject is YES. We must be free to evaluate how colonialists, conquerors, religious figures, reformers like Marx, Bhagat Singh, Vivekananda and Ambedkar, did on certain counts. If we are free to praise, we must also be free to criticise. We should be able to evaluate Akbar’s secularism as well as his feudalism, just as we can evaluate Hitler or Curzon or Churchill. We must be able to evaluate the imaginative skill of an emperor just as freely as we are free to condemn how he chopped off the hands of his workers.
However, if your position on No. 3) is NO, then please stick to it in a consistent manner. But don’t switch sides based on convenience. If we are free to ask savarna feminists to criticise the Hindu religion and caste system and Hindu religious figures, we can also ask “Islamic” feminists to criticise Muslim history and ideology in the same manner. Either none or both. Be consistent.
4) The question of “respect” — We should generally practise respect and restraint and not say extreme things, that’s my normative position on the subject! However, you cannot demand respect for your religion, while conveniently disrespecting other religions/religious ideologies. It’s just sheer hypocrisy. If you demand respect for your religion, then please also stand by women who are abused by followers of your religion.
More than gods, people deserve “respect”.
Gods can protect themselves, but people, women, authors/artists, critics of religion, are defenseless in the face of hate speech and have to face actual violence (which gods do not have to face).
If you think MF Hussain should not have been hounded out of the country, then please also stand by Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie.
If you believe that the journalist (mentioned at the beginning of the post) was right in saying “Ram was an asshole”, then please also respect the right of others to suggest that Mohammed was feudal, etc. or whatever.
Don’t hide your religious superiority complex or bigotry in the guise of third-wave feminism. I do understand how Muslims are a minority and Hindus are a majority, and the respective power equations between the two communities. However, do not use this to simply outlaw discussions of patriarchy in Islam. It doesn’t help. Because if you understand “power” and “hierarchy”, then please also understand that it exists in its starkest form between men and women.
We oppose Modi, not because we are Muslims, but because we are Marxist, Ambedkarite, feminist.
Those who shield the religious bigots in the name of being progressive, please don’t patronise us Muslims as being touchy and not capable of criticism or of handling criticism. We are quite capable of it.
In my humble opinion!
SHEHLA RASHID Tweet And Status After Controversial Statement
Several people from AMU are now messaging me in my inbox, condemning the FIR by AMUSU, and asking me what the truth behind the allegations was. Well, I would have loved to come to AMU and clarify things face to face, and answer any questions myself.
It’s very difficult to answer to everyone, one by one.
Many people who have arrived late at the scene are asking me why I’m not replying to the false allegations!!!
I have spent the last 2 days giving clarifications, and I’m very exhausted now. It would help if you share the following posts:
Also, people need to speak up not only in private messages, but also publicly. It’s the collective silence that lets some bigots speak for everyone.
FIR BY AMUSU AGAINST SHEHLA RASHID
Yet again the spurious balloon of ‘tolerance’, ‘free speech’ and ‘Individual liberty’ got busted at Aligarh Muslim University after trolling and intimidation of Shehla Rashid on the social network for her alleged (offensive) Facebook post. She has been warned of boycot if she comes to AMU. This reminds me how Eram Agha, former journalist for TOI was hounded and made to go underground for her reporting of issue of denial of entry into Maulana Azad library. Irony is that those who are trolling Shehla vehemently extolled AwardWaspsi movement against growing intolerance. And we’re gleefully comparing themselves with Cambridge and Oxford.
The “hate speech” is the kind of stuff which is very much a part of political speech and one should be slow in excluding it completely from public discourse. Moreover, people have right not only to impart facts and information, but also have the right to have a point of view which they can express as opinion. The principle of free speech is that unless someone’s speech was likely to cause irreparable harm to other person immediately, the speaker should not be gagged but should be contradicted by counter-speech.
When Alig biradiri was in deep slumber, Shehla and JNU students were fighting for Najeeb. How can people be so mean, nasty and mindless that they filed complaint against her with Police? In Ramji Lal Modi v. State of UP 1957 SCR 860), Supreme Court held section 295A of IPC did not punish all insults to religion or religious beliefs, but only such speeches as were made deliberately and maliciously with a view to outrage the religious feelings of any class of citizen. By no stretch imagination, Shehla’s post falls under this section.
I am no fan of Shehla. She is one of those among the intellectually deceitful for me. Yet I would stand for her right to free speech and right to offend me. Right to speech does include right to offend otherwise the right is worthless. In her post, she mentioned about Lord Rama too. And if one reads it with critical mind, it becomes obvious that she never intended to show deliberate disrespect to any religion. And I can safely vouch that till date she has even otherwise never ever uttered a single word to spread communal disharmony. Even hre political opponents and the ABVP at JNU have never accused her of any objectionable utterances in this context.
Should I start exhorting the fringe elements to lynch her? Definitely No. People like Kavita Krishnan, Shehla etc make us feel that we live in a free and participatory democratic country. Free speech co-exits with tolerance and unfortunately our society is turning into one of the most intolerant on this count. The conduct of AMUSU has brought disrepute to my alma mater. In fact they have thrown mud on the face of AMU. I salute to those students who have stood with Shehla.
I am of the firm belief that AMU too has rational thinking staff and students, although a species fast becoming extinct. When I was at AMU, I did not face this sort of intolerance at least from my Muslim friends. They did not muzzle my voice. They tolerated me throughout five years. When I have had hot-talks with my friends on any issue, it was I who would stop talking to them. But still they were generous towards me and would forgive and forget.
I am baffled by the conduct of some office bearers of present day AMUSU. I believe that my alma mater cannot altogether be faulted. I just wonder how they would have been had they not been to AMU.
What People Are Saying About Shehla Rashid In Facebook
Misquotation, slander and threat of FIR to silence prominent left democratic Voice? It hasn’t worked and it will not work.
Nation-wide unity of student movement for rights and equality can not be broken by mischievous attempts by few. AMU students have always raised voice for democratization of society and majoritarian targeting, they will continue to do so.
In an extremely unfortunate turn of events, comrade Shehla Rashid is being targeted for her views on free speech and hate speech. A few AMU students and one AMUSU representative have not only been conducting a slanderous campaign against her, but have also filed a police complaint seeking an FIR. Shehla, along with some other student leaders (Umar Khalid, Mohit K Pandey, Akbar, Kanhaiya and Kawalpreet Kaur) were invited for a National Student Leaders meet at AMU by AMUSU.
Like many other universities, students of AMU had stood up against media campaign and state crackdown on JNU and HCU students. JNU stood against the attempts to curb minority status of AMU. AMU was a prominent voice of resistance against cut in research scholarship during Occupy UGC movement. AMU women came out in large number recently to assert women’s rights to equality and freedom just before Valentines day like students in many other universities. The present popular upsurge in universities for right to education and freedom of speech, the solidarity and unity of student movement all across the country have become the main voice of opposition against today’s regime. This unity of student movement indicate towards the tremendous potential of a social transformation and resistance to power that be. Students have stood with each other beyond religious and caste boundaries. This has posed a major threat to the present regime as well as power lobbies in each university that intend to maintain the status quo.
The National Student leader meet that was to be held in AMU was another such instance of increasing solidarity between student movements in different universities. But prior to the program a slanderous campaign was initiated by few against Shehla. The post that apparently became a matter of “hurt sentiments’ to a few was in fact about free speech and opinions on what qualifies as criminal hate speech and what does not. The instances which she quoted – in quotation marks – to make her point are being misquoted by this lobby as her statement against the Prophet. Ironically the instances she quoted included hateful speech directed at her own self by the Sangh trolls. Not only a motivated lobby within AMU, but people outside AMU as well who have differences with Shehla because of the positions she takes on several issues and her association with Left politics are using this opportunity to spread a frenzy of misinformation against her. Shehla is clearly being targeted for her politics, for her association with AISA and Left ideology. ‘Hurt Sentiments’, misquotations, doctored videos are the well known tactics by self-appointed custodians of sentiments to divert attention from the issues that today’s student movement is raising. As opposed to the handful of people spreading misinformation and slander against Shehla, a large number of progressive voices across organisations including a very large number of general students and alumni of AMU are extending solidarity with Shehla. We are confident that campaigns of misinformation and slander and the bogey of ‘hurt sentiments’ will not succeed in silencing democratic concerns and voices.