Opinion: Why an Indian film’s success at the box office should worry us all

The Muslim Times has the best collection to refute Islamophobia. Suggested reading: Thirty Plus Quotes from the Poet of Love

Source: Washington Post

By Rana Ayyub

The young Muslim man watches his wife being killed in the name of jihad. The man had been living a quiet domestic life posing as a Hindu and working as a car mechanic. But when his Hindu wife confronts him about a terrorist plot, the head of the terrorist group who has come to recruit him back kills her in cold blood. Soon after, we see the husband and other men praying as they gear up for the attack.

The nauseating scene is featured in the movie “Sooryavanshi,” which is ruling the box office here in India. The film stokes the dangerous “love jihad” conspiracy, which paints Muslim men as colluding to seduce or kidnap Hindu women or girls and convert them to Islam. But other Islamophobic tropes are the center of the film, which has as its male lead one of the biggest stars in India, Akshay Kumar — a big fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an actor famous for his jingoistic, hyper-nationalist films.

“Sooryavanshi” is one of the most successful films in India after the covid-19 lockdowns were eased. Its success contributes to the climate of hate and discrimination that India’s estimated 200 million Muslims must face everyday.

Every third frame of the film is a bloodcurdling Islamophobic image. While an upper-class Hindu character played by Kumar gives lessons in patriotism, the Muslim antagonist responds with hate. He is ungrateful, with a long beard and skull cap. Each time the protagonist sermonizes the Indian Muslim to fall in line, the audience in the theater where I saw the film whistled and applauded.

The film does not even pretend to mask its agenda — which is the right-wing Hindu nationalist agenda of Modi’s government. It justifies the abrogation of the special status accorded to Kashmir, where thousands of youth were detained and an Internet blackout was imposed in 2019. Like the government, the film argues that the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution has wiped out terrorism from the valley.

If the filmmakers had read any news about Kashmir, they could have had a brush with reality. But who wants to talk about reality when the purpose is propaganda?

Propaganda sells, obviously. News just gets in the way.

Recently the police in India filed a case against 102 Twitter accounts that include journalists, activists and lawyers who spoke out against the anti-Muslim violence that unfolded in the northeastern state of Tripura in October. Hindu nationalists vandalized mosques and attacked Muslim homes, but the Tripura police went after those who spoke against it, accusing them of sedition.

For weeks in New Delhi, Muslim Friday prayers have been obstructed by Hindu nationalists. The Muslims were finally displaced, and a grand Hindu prayer service was organized in the presence of a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Nov. 5.

In this context, a film like “Sooryavanshi” is not just entertainment. The film makes a point of repeating attacks carried out by Muslims, ignoring the numerous episodes of violence carried out by Hindu radicals. Kumar’s protagonist speaks about the 1993 blasts in Mumbai but conveniently ignores the 1992 anti-Muslim carnage that preceded it. He conveniently ignores the 2002 riots of Gujarat, the Malegaon blasts of 2006 that killed Muslims after Friday prayers and the Malegaon blasts of 2008, where retired officers in the Indian army were implicated.

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Categories: Hinduism, Islamophobia, Movie

1 reply

  1. Just shows that Bollywood is not interested in making peace within the different communities and religions but has a partisan agenda all in the name of making a fast but dangerous buck.

    And when they release such movies internationally, they export their hate to the Indian diaspora, too.

    I know lots of Hindus in my country, who might not even have visited India in their entire lives and been born outside it, but such movies suddenly make them hate the non-hindus, especially Muslims in their midst.

    It is so sickening to see that so many Muslims, out there, see this awful actor as a hero and are great fans of his. Maybe, this will show them that he isn’t worth it and is a positive danger to peace!

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