Originally posted at Youthpad.
A story carried today in Hindustan Times’s HT City caught my attention today. A controversy has cropped up – or been made to crop up by the media – by over an image of Goddess Lakshmi being used by fast food chain Burger King in Spain. Guess what? Burger King has already apologized to ‘the community’ for the incident and agreed to pull the ‘offending’ ad.
This isn’t the first time that Burger King has run into trouble over controversial ads. Let’s set that aside for a while; personally, that earlier ‘controversy’ was a non-controversy – a joke which should be taken as such. The very first sentence of the news report on this new story says:
…having Goddess Lakshmi endorse a meat burger is pushing it too far.
And why precisely should that be so? No logical reason is given for this of course. Soon there are Hindu organizations rabidly demanding for apologies. The closest that anyone comes to a semblance of an excuse for this something along the lines of “They wouldn’t dare to do this with Jesus Christ.” For heaven’s sake, ‘Jesus Christ’ is an expletive for them most of the time. What more do you want? Let’s take a few more examples. Here’s a list of Jesus Christ merchandise on Cafepress.com (which got into trouble over some merchandise featuring Hindu gods / goddesses) including a thong which says ‘Keep Jesus in your pants’. Here’s the ‘encyclopedic’ entry on Jesus at Uncyclopedia, a parody encyclopedia which satirizes subjects. You can also watch this clip from a South Park episode Cartoon Wars II to see “what they’ll never do to Jesus Christ”.
The examples quoted above didn’t take me too long to find – all of two minutes on Yahoo! Search. The point is not that there aren’t religious people in those countries – there are many such people, and very radical and vocal factions too. The difference lies that over there they value something called ‘freedom of speech and expression‘. That doesn’t seem to exist in Indian society. For every little thing, there are people or organizations who get their knickers in a twist and start demanding apologies. Why can’t we learn to let other people exercise their right to free speech? Why must we get offended at each silly little thing? MF Hussain has protesters issuing death threats, forcing him to apologize for drawing paintings of nude goddesses. Elsewhere in the world they act like sane human beings and call paintings a work of art.
I don’t think mainstream print media got the wind of this case where a Danish newspaper run an ad campaign Life is easier, if you don’t speak up. Among others, it shows Gandhi drinking beer and having a barbecue.
Here’s what the newspaper had to say about this incident:
First of all let us say that we am deeply sorry if we have offended you and some people of your country.
In fact the quite opposite was our meaning.
Jylland-Posten took three of our biggest heroes and made a campaign about them. I think it is very important for you to read (and think about) the copy “Life is easier, if you don’t speak up”.
We wanted to honour the men that stood up and changed the world instead of just being like the rest of us…surfing, skiing, barbecuing and so on.
A perfectly sensible explanation. May I dare say that the ad idea was pretty unique and interesting? Because it is. It’s a brilliant ad campaign. Yet I’m sure that if this story hit Indian press circles there would have been approximately 23,789 organizations demanding apologies, writing angry letters, filing PILs in Mumbai High Court (despite knowing the fact that Indian courts have no jurisdiction over this matter) and in general acting like pricks.
So you are one of those people who still isn’t convinced about this fancy-schmancy thingymajig called ‘freedom of expression’. You’re on phone with your local craftsman placing an order for a Burger King effigy while simultaneously making a placard for that protest day after tomorrow against Jyllands-Posten. After all, these heathen foreigners have no regards for religious feelings, right? Before you go for those protests, just think for a second about the country where mass murderers aren’t brought to justice, tourists get raped or molested, Christian missionaries get burnt alive and ministers say OK to religious vigilantism.