Is it ever right to ban art?

India’s tendency for self-censorship is saddening, writes Jeet Thayil. But is any book (or opera) worth dying for? From The Guardian’s Comment is Free

Like everyone else, I’ve heard of the Christian right, though mostly in connection with the US. In India, Christians are painfully aware of their minority status and, as a result, they are low-key, if not subterranean, at least when compared to other religious groups. The idea of militant Christianity here is as odd as the idea of militant Buddhism, or militant Zoroastrianism, or militant Animism, though why this should be the case I have no idea. Historically, Christians and Buddhists have been as enamoured of bloodshed as anyone else.

I was reminded of all this in January, when a group calling itself the Catholic-Christian Secular Forum threatened to take to court the makers of the Hindi movie, Ekk Deewana Tha [working translation: There Was This Crazy Dude]. The group objected to a single word used in the movie: hosanna. According to the Forum’s general secretary, the use of the word had hurt the religious sentiments of Christians and Jews around the world. Never mind that it had occurred in a song that was a hit in India and nowhere else. Credited to the composer AR Rahman, it was part of a song and dance sequence that was innocuous and forgettable – but clearly romantic. That was enough for the Catholic-Christians. According to the Forum’s general secretary, if you would not use Islamic or Hindu prayer words in popular music, why use the word hosanna “in a carnal love song”? In other words, if the Muslims and Hindus will object to perceived offences against their religious sentiments, as they frequently do, why couldn’t the Christians? more

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