MF Husain and his freedom

Maqbool Fida Husain is no longer an Indian, he has accepted Qatari citizenship. It’s not a total surprise considering he was on voluntary exile from Indian Judicial system since 2006. There are few criminal charges against him for having hurt religious sentiments of Indians. For those who are not familiar with this, it’s a typical “freedom of expression” Vs “offending belief system” case. Husain now 94, painted few Hindu deities and Mother India in nude and socially objectionable positions (Indian context). When charged for this, he decided it would be better not to answer to the system and officially absconding since then.

Million dollar question behind this is “what is the boundary of freedom of expression?”, ideally there are none. In an ideal society freedom of expression is that anyone can express anything and nobody gets offended. It possibly could be well accepted if it were done with all intentions answered. But we do not live in ideal society. Here, each group consider themselves to be suppressed and others being appeased. Plenty of moral police are patrolling to maintain this attitude. So, anything could trigger hatred among the groups if the situations are not properly handled. Same is happened here – ‘not properly handled’!

Husain's Bharat mata

Husain claimed that he painted them for the love of those deities; let’s take it is true. Artists have different way to look at things and depict them. He also claimed that there were no intention of offending people, this also can be accepted. But the question followed by this is never answered. Why only deities related to a particular religion is chosen, why not others or his own? In a society where all communities look at each other with suspicion, this question certainly will raise eyebrows. This part seems to be a big hypocrisy on his part. BTW I am not after his apologies, just an explanation.

Right wing on the other hand, can never justify breaking things. They always have right to get offended and protest for it, but not Physical attack.

BTW quoting Khajaraho is never an answer for this; those were carved when these things were probably acceptable in society. Now we live in a society where kissing in public is not OK but pissing is! Society has changed since those temples were carved, so are the rules of every society. Something valid a millennium ago is no longer valid today. This is called “Change”. That’s the reason few things cannot be justified quoting, it “was”, in the same country. This change may not be good (like this one), it can always be protested on, from within the system.

There will be a day, may be in next hundred years, when all these things may not be issues at all. Majority of civilised world would have rejected religions and deities. This discussion would look silly then.[tweetmeme]

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15 thoughts on “MF Husain and his freedom

  1. He could not have have painted any thing relating to his religion, in Islam painting figures is blasphemous.
    My problem with Hussain’s freedom of expression is that he has painted figures of Mother Teresa and his own mother which are well clad.Does he not respect Hindu deities in the same way and even if he doesn’t, for the sake of those who do, he should have been cautious.
    PS- I am a big Hussain fan and love his paintings.


    1. Yes, that is one valid question. Unfortunately the person who can answer this is no longer Indian.
      P.S. I do not like his movies and paintings at all.


  2. Who should decide where to draw a line? Moral Police? Politicians? How does one know what their motives are? Can they be trusted to be totally unbiased and fair?
    I would rather have the right to ignore my ‘hurt sentiments’.


    1. “rather have the right to ignore my ‘hurt sentiments’” This is a bad decision. Why would you allow it?

      All your questions are true for a case falls very near to the boundary. Does this too ? Do you think this case so vague? read the comments below by little Indian.


  3. Freedom of Expression is not limitless. It is only one article (19) of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

    Article 18, just preceding it states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    Importantly, Article 30 specifically states: ” Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

    Article 19 cannot and should not be claimed in isolation.

    Just to draw a contrast, following publication of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, muslims across the world protested. That was acceptable. But if Hindus protest, then Husain suddenly becomes entitled to his “freedom to express”.

    Moreover, if one religious group expects respect and understanding towards their faith, they themselves should extend the same courtesy to everyone else.

    But not muslims. Because they DO NOT recognise EQUAL RIGHTS of any religion other than Islam.
    That is hypocrisy.


    1. littelindian,
      The first two points you mentioned(articles)are very delicate. The can be easily misinterpreted. They are not properly practised anyway. for.e.g. Do you think, Do Indians have freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom ? all of them?

      One more question , what if “manifest his religion or belief in teaching” is causing “destruction of any of the rights” in the second article ? In current structure of our belief system , they contradict each other.

      On cartoons , yes, our society is hypocrite and appeasing, and it is getting more and more irritating.


      1. Hi,
        regarding the first point;
        in India, it is easy for Hindus to voluntarily change their religion if they wish to. To cite some of our celebrities (as these happened in full knowledge of the nation) Sharmila Tagore, Dharmendra and Hema Malini.
        But the reverse will never happen. To leave Islam is considered as apostasy. In the Islamic world, there is a broad consensus, both popular and scholarly, that apostates deserve to be killed.

        regarding the second point;
        by the very fact of it being contradictory, Articles 29 and 30 acts as a ‘limit’ to all articles including Article 19.

        We claim our Freedom of Expression but we forget that Article 29 reminds us of our obligation to respect the rights and freedoms of everyone else.

        The Declaration of Human Rights is a package, we cannot pick and choose.


  4. Sorry.
    I missed out:
    Article 29
    Sec 2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.


    1. Indian,
      Apologies , I am not able to locate “they DO NOT recognise EQUAL RIGHTS of any religion” in the link you have provided. I dint know that it was so officially openly declared.


  5. Hi Bach

    “equality of rights” becomes true ONLY when EVERY individual, have (unrestricted) FREEDOM to exercise his/her rights, regardless of age, sex, race, religion etc.

    The Universal Declaration states:

    Article 2:
    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    In contrast, the Cairo declaration states:

    ARTICLE 1:
    (a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. The true religion is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity.

    It accepts equality ONLY of ‘dignity’ but does NOT accepts (hence) guarantee FREEDOM. And in the context of our discussion, on the basis of religion.

    It also shows in:

    ARTICLE 5:(a)
    The family is the foundation of society, and marriage is the basis of making a family. Men and women have the right to marriage, and no restrictions stemming from race, colour or nationality shall prevent them from exercising this right.

    Significantly – NOT from religion.

    In several of its Articles, the Cairo Declaration clarifies it only follows the Shari’ya.

    ARTICLE 24:
    All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah.

    ARTICLE 25:
    The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.

    ARTICLE 1: (b)
    All human beings are Allah’s subjects, and the most loved by Him are those who are most beneficial to His subjects, and no one has superiority over another except on the basis of piety and good deeds.

    ARTICLE 10:
    Islam is the religion of true unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of pressure on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to force him to change his religion to another religion or to atheism.

    ARTICLE 22:(a)
    Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.

    Is there then EQUALITY in rights and freedom of any non-muslim individual in an Islamic society/nation?


    1. Little Indian, I get it. It looks unfortunate. I need to do little more study on this, to understand why these political stands are accepted by rest of the world.


  6. I wanted to write so many things…

    but all i can say is, i will not pick an axe if he can paint the god from his religion nude…


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