On the Road towards Sudan

Republic of the Sudan is a pretty large country with a total area of 2.5 million square kms and 40 million people. The United States is about four times larger in land area and over seven times larger in terms of population. The US is also about 70 times richer per capita (official exchange rate) compared to Sudan. There are other stark differences between the US and Sudan, of course, some of which are causes and others the consequence of the immense income disparity. Here are some (Sudan, US):

Agriculture as share of GDP (38 percent, 1 percent);
Life expectancy at birth (49 years, 78 years);
Population growth rate (2.1 percent; 0.9 percent);
Median age (18.7 years; 36.6 years);
Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births (92, 6);
Total fertility rate — children born per woman (4.7, 2.1);
Literacy over age 15 (61 percent, 99 percent);
Independence (1956, 1776);

I am not usually in the habit of checking out the vital statistics of third world African nations. I am more concerned with a third world Asian nation. What piqued my interest in Sudan was the recent news report about a British school teacher in Sudan. She had allowed her primary school class of 7-year olds to name a teddy bear, and the kids collectively chose to name the bear “Mohammed.”

Ms Gibbons, who joined the school in August, asked a seven-year-old girl to bring in her teddy bear and asked the class to pick names for it . . .

“They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad,” Mr Boulos said, adding that she then had the children vote on a name.

Twenty out of the 23 children chose Muhammad as their favourite name.

Mr Boulos said each child was then allowed to take the bear home at weekends and told to write a diary about what they did with it.

He said the children’s entries were collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover and a message which read, “My name is Muhammad.”

The police seized the book and interviewed the 7-year old who owned the bear.

The teacher was charged with “inciting hatred and showing contempt of religious beliefs.” Crowds wanted her killed for insulting Islam and the prophet of Islam. She could have been jailed for six months and given 40 lashes. The courts were lenient and sentenced her to only 15 days in prison and deportation. No doubt the heavy diplomatic pressure from Britain had something to do with the leniency.

This sort of insane sensitivity gives new meanings to the word bizarre. How shaky must one’s confidence in one’s idols be that it provokes such mindless rage against absolutely innocent behavior?

Compare and contrast that with what is goes on in the US. The US is over 70 percent Christian — which means that a majority do consider Jesus to be a divine character. And some don’t. So you can have someone called CaucasianJesus holding forth on his website ChruchofJesusF**kingChrist.com and no one gets his or her knickers in a twist.

My considered view is that there is a connection between the attitude of the people reflected in the mohammed bear episode in Sudan and the general poverty in that country, just as there is one between the freedom from religion in the US and the prosperity of the US. Yes, the US is a country of religious people (astonishing for an advanced industrialized country) but freedom from religion is hard-coded into the constitution and the system. I will go into the connection in a later post.

But for now, here is the question: Is India closer to Sudan or is it closer to the US?

The vital statistics of India place it closer to Sudan than to the US, of course. But what matters is the trend. Is it moving to the Sudan end of the scale or to the US end? I think that it is sliding very fast towards Sudan. Taslima Nasreen is only the latest episode.

8 thoughts on “On the Road towards Sudan

  1. abhilash.shastry Monday December 3, 2007 / 5:04 am

    I fully agree that India is sliding fast towards Sudan, but not for the reasons Atanu thinks.

    India is sliding fast towards Sudan because of people like Atanu who have nothing positive to contribute to society except their exclusive right wing propaganda and litany of impotent complaints and mechanical criticism of the “system”. Apparently, there is a closely related case of a painter along with Taslima, which Atanu’s blinkered eyes will no doubt find difficult to spot.

    US is US because even in a predominantly Christian country people are showing guts to challenge the non-sense of majority communalism. It will also turn into a Sudan, when American Atanu-s start fanning their hate propaganda about their own religious and ethnic minorities, which some have already started.

    The greatest difference between US and India is that in the US, hate mongers are booted out as paranoids. In India, they can pass as “respectable” intellectuals even among ‘educated” (read degree-owner) segment of society.


  2. Notsure Monday December 3, 2007 / 8:51 am

    Well India is not doing well b/c of people like mechanicaly banal thinkers shastryji.
    Its amusing to notice conflating attempt being made with “degree-owners” with the matter at hand.

    The issue is that of Freedom.
    In a free place, pussies huff and puff about being offended and cant do much else.
    In a repressive societies they do whats being done there.

    US is US b/c there is a strong push the society has taken towards freedom.
    A pornographer wrote about a the then rising religious figure in US Mr Fallwell as having sex with his mother in an outhouse. The case ran its verdicts and appeals to the supreme court
    The thing went to supreme court where the pornographer Mr Flynts side won on the ground of freedom of speech.
    That is what makes US great.


  3. abhilash.shastry Monday December 3, 2007 / 6:05 pm

    Yes, I agree that the issue is freedom of expression for ALL.

    That’s why I mentioned the closely related issue of an exiled painter that Bajrang Dal bloggers will never have guts to discuss.


  4. sudipta Tuesday December 4, 2007 / 12:26 am

    […] Atanu speaks on the controversy in Sudan where a teacher[…] >> from Blogbharti


  5. Notsure Tuesday December 4, 2007 / 4:27 am

    Shastry is on a conflationationary martch now throwing Bajrang Dal in here.
    ShastryJi Who is the mysterious Bajrang Dal Blogger ?

    The written evidence here reflects that you dont have anything substantial to discuss wrt topic and hence start throwing malapropisms like “degree-owners”, “Bajrang Dal bloggers”.

    FYI :- Mr Dey has about MoFo Hussain case.
    Hmm perhaps ShastryJi will now up the ante from never having “guts to discuss” to never having balls and throw something extraneous again.


  6. Alpana Sadya Tuesday December 4, 2007 / 5:27 pm

    Some people are so open minded that there brains have popped out.

    Abhilash, why can’t you see that Islamic fanaticism has become today a world wide threat to freedom of speech? In their times, all religions have used torture and violence as a right to silence their critics, however in today’s world, except for Islam, no other religion is insisting for this right – at least not openly.

    But I agree to your other point. Today, Hindu communalists are the only ones in the world who match Islamic zealots in their ugliness. I only hope that it is a temporary phenomenon though all signs so far point otherwise. And, yes, Atanau plays softball to right wing Hindus, so no surprises here.


  7. Notsure Tuesday December 4, 2007 / 8:41 pm

    I wrote earlier
    FYI :- Mr Dey has about MoFo Hussain case.
    it should be
    FYI :- Mr Dey has written about MoFo Hussain case.


  8. anuj Tuesday December 4, 2007 / 9:57 pm

    shastry, please re-read the post’s last line – “I think that it is sliding very fast towards Sudan. Taslima Nasreen is only the LATEST episode.”


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