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Monday, September 08, 2014

Online arguments on religion and right-wing twitter trolls' strategy: From secularism and democracy in Islamic countries to sweeping statements about Muslims

By Indscribe

Before penning my understanding of trolls and their 'strategy', just let me tell you a bit of background. On this blog, I have often sharply criticised certain Arab countries that have monarchies, and don't grant proper rights to women.

There are many things in each and every country in this world that are condemnable--from corruption to communalism, age-old practices to mistreatment with women or other sections of society.

If there are issues in my country, I can write over them as per my interest or understanding. I do write about my concerns with regard to my own country, more freely, as I have first-hand experience.

But if there are issues in other nations, should (and how much) I defend or criticise them? I may or may not, it is purely my personal decision. Individuals writing something can't change anything, still....

NOW COMING TO THE REAL ISSUE

1. A section of people on internet, have a 'belief', that if you are a Muslim, you should be asked and made to explain 'things that are wrong in Muslim countries'.

One is expected to criticise them. Yes I've no problem in doing that. Anyone would condemn flogging or execution though those who expect it form us, may support death penalty for certain people in India.

Anyway, the issue begins when these tweeple show that their mental horizon is limited to a Muslim world' which begins from Pakistan and Afghanistan, goes past all Arab countries in a sweeping statement, and then end up buttressing that 'everywhere there is something wrong in Muslim world'.

Over the years, I have seen this typical troll strategy:

2. It begins with a normal and gentle conversation. Then, you are asked about a particular practice in a Muslim country, if you counter it and give a proper argument, then comes a second question--may be about faraway Iraq or Iran--countries alien to me and with whom I have no relation.

What's the objective? They keep throwing selected charges [repeated by most of them, copy-pasted from certain sites], to keep you on defensive? Or it gives them a high? Do they really enjoy, because the conversation leads to no where.

An intelligent person with patience would give examples to explain something. He will talk about different factors--local issues, involvement of America in Middle East over the Great Game, sincerely accept problems that exist in Muslim countries, even if he is not responsible.

3. But the troll steadily keeps moving towards an objective--that 'it happened at place X, person Y does this, and see Z', now this is enough for him to 'conclusively' say that ' your religion has a certain problem' or 'you guys are mostly bad, with a few exceptions'.

So there is no scope for RATIONALISM. No point is any argument or debate, which gets clearer over the course of minutes or hours. Either side may get abusive and their friends too jump in the conversation.

4. If the person had tried to be patient till now and didn't resort to abuse, he still gets bitter by the experience. Feels that there is tremendous hate and communalism in this world. What the 'Troll ji' gets out of it? Is he paid by someone or he sincerely believes it. No easy answers.

Does he enjoys spreading such message and feels he is doing something good to society by creating awareness regarding the truth of a particular religion and its believers, as per his {troll ji's} interpretation and views? Whatever.

The classic troll strategy: Online and Offline

5. Hundreds or thousands or may be even more people are having this experience on internet on a daily basis. This 'strategy' or it comes out of them naturally, is not limited to internet. I have some off-line experience too.

"Why X killed Hindus?", you answer and counter. "Ok, why then you guys do this in country Y". "I have no great interest in Y. Bad practices should be condemned, no justification. Doesn't untouchability, khap killings, dowry, rapes, so many things exist here too".

"That's different, why there is always trouble in these countries?". "Is it? How many Muslim countries you know? Let's talk about Indonesia--the most populated Muslim country, to small neighbours like Maldives or Brunei also...

6. Many of these trolls have an obsession for Pakistan or Afghanistan. But why not talk about Albania, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Tajikistan...and so many nations across the world?

Tell him and Troll ji gets angry, says, "These are countries with European influence, commie culture or monarchies". You may tell a troll that there is no need for you to justify anything or else he should also see civil wars, issues in African, South American, South East Asian countries, many of which are Christian or Buddhist majority.

7. But then, from everything that happened in last millennium, from Ghaznavi to Babar, the troll wants you to be held responsible. The 'Muslim obsession' and sweeping generalization that an entire sea of humanity is bad, comes from him. And it keeps going on.

8. Troll ji, is not listening to you. He thought Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda or Zambia were all Muslim countries. He then goes to a 'percentage theory' that if minorities [Muslims] go past this number, they create trouble, but even if they are 7%, they can create trouble (he has checked wikipedia by then).

9. Our troll ji, wants that the person would change his mind and accept what he (troll) believes in. But a normal person falls in the trap. Because he wants a civilised debate, he keeps on 'answering' (to) the same set of questions, without realising that the 'troll ji' wants him to land in this situation.

Frustrated in real life! Net, perhaps only place where Troll gets attention
The troll wants you to be replying, replying and replying--a grilling session, it becomes. You aren't allowed to question him.

10. The moment he has no answer left, he will get abusive--giving you a jolt as you were probably hoping to calm down a person and  had tried your best to make him see reason, so that he could stop being irrational and hateful. Alas...

Nothing, just nothing can make the 'troll' understand

11. My friend was dealing with a similar situation. So it was back to 'problems with Muslim countries' argument by the other person. Once again, he had his views based on just a few countries, especially, Pakistan.

Patiently, my friend kept answering and informing:

*Yes, so many countries have secular constitutions-- Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Gambia, Djbouti, Comoros, Niger, Tajikistan, Burkina Faso, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan...Albania (even has nudist beaches), Tunisia has secular constitution.

*Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Kazakhistan had even had atheist Presidents. Morocco recently had a Gay pride march

*Lebanon--only country in the world where constitution mandates that only a minority should be president.

12. But nothing worked. A proper debate is where the other person is ready to appreciate if he is told a valid point. He or she should be ready to accept if he didn't know something, and has just been informed about it.

On Facebook, and all social networking sites, it happens. So what you should do? Good question. It depends on you. When you see graffiti in the toilet or obscene writings in train lavatories, do you scribble back on the walls and write a reply? I don't think you do. So Best of Luck.

The sad aspect is that nothing WORTHWHILE comes out of such interactions. Troll is firm about his ideas. The other person gets dejected too. Can't they talk like normal humans, and discuss other things, a while later. So what's the solution? Just keep your sanity. Make the trolls work hard to find their next prey to have their daily 'fun'.

See more posts on this issue here:




4. Playing flute to a buffalo: How to deal with Islamophobes 

[Illustration 1. Courtesy LINK] [Illustration 2. Courtesy LINK]

[In the above post, I may have been repetitive, Apologies for bearing the long piece, if you really read it]

Monday, September 01, 2014

Hindus, Muslims, Christians join hands to celebrate Ganeshotsava in Mumbai

Indscribe

If you believe in communal harmony, you will find inter-religious harmony at every nook and corner in India.

You will find innumerable examples among your friends, acquaintances and in your neighbourhood.

It is not about Mumbai alone. In other cities too, it is a common sight, to see people participating in construction of tableaux.

Similarly, if you don't believe in this idea, and somehow feel that there is eternal conflict between certain religions and their adherents, you will not be able to see this beautiful and syncretic culture, which has always thrived in India.

See the photograph on the left. It is about the Ganpati celebration in Mumbai. The hoarding has the names of organisers. There are Aditya and Shyam, along with Obaid Khan and Farhan Mirza. With them is Anthony D'sa and Nafis Syed.

Many of us walk past such hoardings without casting a glance. For cynics, even this may not be enough. But this cultural unity is part of our daily lives in India. On social media, especially, Twitter, we encounter people who give an impression as if different communities are always at loggerheads and have nothing common.

Now there is the second photograph below. It shows banner of an organisation congratulating Muslims on Ramzan. The organisation's name is 'Shree Naveen Ekta Durga Utsava Samiti' and along with the Goddess' photograph, it also carries '786', 'crescent' and the message for Muslims on Ramzan.

They are not politicians, who are trying to seek votes. They are all ordinary individuals, who have friends of different communities, and who share each others' pain and pleasure.

It is not about Ganesh Chaturthi alone but is true for most festivals in this country.

Yes, this is the real India. The virtual world may give you the impression that Hindus and Muslims are always arguing, fighting and accusing each other.

But reality is that the hate-filled Tweeples can't even put up a banner or a hoarding, let alone organise events on the street.They may spread hate round the clock, but can't come out of their bubble, to do something constructive that can enrich the lives of the people.

The real culture, the shared heritage is there on the street. This is the true Indian culture.

[Top photo. Courtesy my dear friend Ganesh ji, who BLOGS HERE]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The lost world of spy fiction in Urdu returns: Akram Allahabadi's detective novels are back for his fans

By Indscribe

For years, Akram Allahabadi's detective novels that were once a rage, had  become rarer to find.

Finally, there is good news, as his family has decided to print his novels once again and bring them in public domain.

The website AkramAllahabadi.com has also been put up for the fans of the late author who wrote spy fiction for well over three decades.

Many today may not be aware about the magical world of Urdu detective fiction that was weaved by him.

It was in the post-independence era (starting from 1952-53), when detective fiction in the sub-continent reached dizzy heights.

Akram Allahabadi, who was born in Allahabad, and who had later settled in Mumbai, was among the most popular writers of the era.

In those days, his novels sold like hot cakes. Today, it is unimaginable the kind of following Akram Sahab or Ibn-e-Safi, had among masses.

Akram Sahab created many famous characters. Among them were Inspector Khaan and his assistant Baalay, Madhulkar and Raazi were most popular.

The novels were published in Urdu and Hindi, and were awaited every month by fans in India and Pakistan. But by 1990s, the novels were hard to found, except in libraries or personal collections.

In my childhood, I have seen almirahs full of Jasoosi Panja and Mahnama, in towns in UP. While Ibn-e-Safi novels were republished, Akram Allahabadi's (or Ilahabadi) works became rare to find.

Sometime back I spoke to a Delhi-based publisher who prints digests that has 2-3 old [Ibn-e-Safi's] detective novels every month [of course, without caring about royalty].

The publisher said that he tried hard but couldn't get Akram Sahab's novels. He asked me if I had any and said that he would love to purchase them and re-publish them.

Till recently, Akram sahab's famous novels like 'Sputnik', 'Junction Bilara', 'Salazar Series' and 'Operation Venus' were remembered. His forte was science fiction.

The website brings back the memories of the era. As an ardent fan, I expect at least of his famous novels to be made available [entire text, for free] for visitors to the website.

This would be a 'tabarruk' for his fans. Also, those who haven't read him before, will get to read at least one of his complete work.

The photographs of the master writer and his family, apart from covers of his novels, are treat to his fans. As a fan of the late writer, I am thankful to all those who helped create the website. Hope, they will keep updating and adding more novels to it. It's very important to keep his legacy alive.

Go, check the website: www.AkramAllahabadi.com

[You can read an earlier article, which I had written, on Akram Allahabadi sab at the other blog. HERE]

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Misusing social media to spread communalism in the society: Messages on WhatsApp, Facebook inflaming passions, causing riots

If the society is increasingly getting communalised and people belonging to different communities are turning into religious bigots, it should be a cause of alarm.

Across India, 'objectionable' posts on Facebook or circulation of messages on WhatsApp are leading to communal tension and riots.

In small towns, people come out on streets and mob resort to violence after seeing a post. We can no longer say that it is a transition phase for society and that people will get over it.

First, it was Facebook, which was being misused to spread false messages and propaganda. Now, it is Whatsapp that is being flooded with communal messages.

It seems that there are factories to manufacture hate-filled messages, on a regular basis. In fact, messages that are factually incorrect are floated, purposely, part of a conspiracy to turn Hindus and Muslims against each other.


Hate-mongering, morphed images

For example, a mischief maker just takes any photo, puts a few words along with it, using PhotoShop or Paintshop, and uploads it. Soon, the like-minded start liking or sharing it, as if it is a certified intellectual's quote.

Even educated persons who are supposed to be discernible and know the truth, are taken in, and believe it as truth. By consistently posting these messages, the aim is to paint the other group as absolute villain and enemy.

A photo of a person being lynched in neighbouring country is passed off as a scene from a particular place in India, and a particular group is blamed. These images go viral and even if one or two persons see the falsehood, the voices don't matter much.

The impact, reach of WhatsApp

Both fundamentalist Hindus and Muslims are involved in this act. Also, many ordinary people, without verifying or bothering to check the information, believe these messages and forward them. Sharing in WhatsApp, takes the messages to even more people.

The hate in many of these messages is chilling. No longer a person needs newspaper or TV channel to spread his message. He can simply write a few lines and in photo form if it is posted, many seem believe the message. Many might not believe these messages.

Daily propaganda turning people fanatic

However, when you see such messages on a daily basis, your degree of suspicion towards other group increased. So those who were liberal turn into fundamentalist, the slight communal into communal and the communal become ultra-communal, seeing the propaganda day in and day out.

Education should bring enlightenment but sadly a large number of people are getting affected by false propaganda on the social networking websites. While social media has its benefits and guarding freedom of expression is important, it is also imperative that those injecting hate in society, should be dealt with sternly.

How many around to spread message of communal harmony?

The reason is that messages on communal harmony aren't spread. There are no organisations flush with funds to do it with a missionary zeal. But those who are overcome by hate or have an agenda, act with a passion. Hence, communal messages flood the virtual world.

Till a few years ago, it was a small section that used Twitter. Facebook was used more often. However, with smartphones being used to check social media, the situation has turned extremely serious. Facebook is used by teenagers and elders in villages too.

Communalism reaches villages through smart phones

WhatsApp is being misused even more. People form their own groups and become 'admins'. There are people who run dozens of groups and spread hate, not just in cities, but in rural parts of the country.

Whatever happened in Muzaffarnagar earlier this year was a reflection of it. People in villages who were not afflicted by the communal bug also turned communal. The power of WhatsApp can be understood by the way it helped spread of the message of BJP.

The right-wing support ensured that the party got a huge success in Uttar Pradesh (UP). While BJP may term itself moderate, its sister organisations are known for their hardcore right-wing ideology. Members of these organisations are known for their communal diatribe.

It is not that other communities aren't involved in it. There are many Muslims who post objectionable messages and circulate them. Sadly, on both sides, there are less saner voices. We need statesmen, real leaders to tell the youths of nation, to get out of this hate business. It hurts the nation like nothing else.

READ POSTS ON SAME ISSUE ON THIS BLOG EARLIER

1. How to deal with communal messages, hate speech and misinformation on social media?

2. Rising Racism: Of online bigots, communal comments and casteist messages on internet

3. Playing flue to buffalow: How to deal with online trolls

4. Abusive messages, comments and this blog

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Beyond Chacha Chaudhary: Legendary cartoonist Pran's comics rooted for secularism and communal harmony too

The news of cartoonist Pran's death in a hospital in Delhi, led to widespread grief and nostalgia--both on the street and on social media.

Those who had grown up reading his comics, paid rich tributes to him, and there were numerous obituaries in newspapers and websites.

Pran, who was born in Kasur town in undivided India, is mostly remembered for his creation of the iconic Indian comic character, Chacha Chaudhary.

But the gifted artist created many more characters which include Billu, Pinki, Shrimati Ji, Channi Chachi, Dabu and Raman amongst others.

For decades Shrimati Ji was published in women's magazine Manorama. There's no doubt that Pran got immense success with Chacha Chaudhary that was published by Diamond Comics. 

I remember that initially I was not a big fan of Chacha Chaudhary because the stories were not long. Most of us got the comics for 25-50 paise from neighbourhood libraries. I expected the story to be a bit longer. Each comic had many short stories that ran into 4-5 pages.

This was unlike Lambu Motu, Rajan Iqbal, Fauladi Singh and other comic strips, which had a long story line running into 45-48 pages. However, I enjoyed reading the naughty Billu and the Pinky, the girl who was always up to some tricks. 

When Secular hadn't  become 'SICKULAR'
However, after the 'villain' Raka was introduced, there were long running stories too in the Chacha Chaudhary series.

When Chacha Chaudhary was launched, there was still a generation which was hooked to Indrajal Comics.

But Chacha Chaudhary went on to enjoy cult following. The character of Sabu, especially, made Chacha Chaudhary more interesting and different from other similar characters.

Diamond comics became the market leader. As far as art, humour and stories are concerned, there are numerous aspects that can be discussed.

However, I would like to reflect on how Pran's comics were always centred on communal harmony and inclusivity.

It was not the era when 'secular' was called 'sickular'. The stories had Muslim, Sikh and Christian characters, quite often.

There would be a Khalifa, a David, a Sardarji or an 'Amjad' in every third or fourth story in most of his comics.

When the new character, Raman, was introduced, the comic-Ham Ek Hain, was a nationwide hit. It was available at all the book stores.

I still remember that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had released this particular issue. Today, many people may not realise the importance of it. 

But the message of secularism through comics can't be underestimated. This was visible in Chacha Chaudhary, as well as other comics of Pran.

There were few other cartoonists who took care to have characters belonging to different regions and religions.

Soon, Diamond Comics lost to the new emerging Raj comics. The strips were now focusing more on crime, violence and superheroes.

The stories often showed triumph of good over evil but the message of social inclusion and harmony wasn't seen thereafter with such passion and intensity in comics of the later era.

Certainly, Pran is immortal. The man, his works, his characters can't be forgotten. 

[Photos courtesy: Pyaretoons.com]