TAG | Sanal Edamaruku
Cross-Posted on the Corner:
There are blasphemy laws in India too, and in this instance a case there comes with a possibly somewhat unexpected twist.
The Guardian reports:
When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage. So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland….
… “The Catholic archbishop of Bombay, Oswald, Cardinal Gracias, has said that if I apologise for the ‘offence’ I have caused he will see to it that the charges are dropped. This shows that he has influence in the situation but he will not use it unless I apologise, which I will not do as I have done nothing wrong,” [Edamaruku] said….
Edamaruku makes a fair point. The cardinal should also ponder the tacit encouragement he is currently giving those elsewhere—far harsher than he appears to be— who use blasphemy laws as a weapon against free speech in general, and, I might add, Christians in particular.
To quote (yet again) what was written in Jyllands-Posten at the time of the Mohammed cartoon controversy: “free speech is free speech is free speech. No buts.”
That’s a pretty good principle.
Sanal Edamaruku’s Bradlaugh moment: The London Times has the details:
When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. “Go on then — kill me,” he said.
Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association — the country’s self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.
First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.
Do read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.