Home Articles Vishwaroopam ban: Do Muslim groups have strong case?

Vishwaroopam ban: Do Muslim groups have strong case?

By Mohd. Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net,

In June 2012 Hindu Makala Katchi objected to the Kamal Hassan’s latest big budget flick Vishwaroopam. They protested against naming a Tamil film in Sanskrit, which according to them insults Tamil sentiments. It might have been the early sign for atheist Hassan that vastu of this movie is not good for its karma.

Soon after the trailer of Vishwaroopam was released along with the posters and story line started buzzing in the media, Muslim organizations in Tamil Nadu feared Kamal is back with keeping his track record of political proclivity movies. Hassan who has experimented with Hinduism, castes and other conflicts in past, this time was presenting his depiction and interpretation of international terrorism.

Propoganda poster against the film

Muslim organizations in Tamil Nadu, with supposed apprehensions objected to the movie by meeting government officials; a special screening was organized for them to win their confidence. But after watching the movie, the apprehension of those Muslim groups were converted in belief that the ‘movie depicts Islam in negative light’ and condemned it as anti-Muslim film.

The movie which was scheduled to be released in whole of South India was banned in Tamil Nadu, followed by restrictions in Hyderabad after protests from some Muslim organizations like Majlis Bacho Tehreek and Jamaitul Ulema. In Karnataka the same restrictions were put in place by police perceiving law and order problem.

Kerala the only south Indian state which screened the movie witnessed clashes in front of theater between SDPI and left student wings. After protests from Tamil Muslim Diaspora film was also banned in UAE and Malaysia.

Now as the Hindi version of Vishwaroopam is scheduled to be released on February 1 at all India level Muslim organizations are planning to meet Prime Minster to ban the movie, making it a national controversy. Debates will be raised to put more labels on Muslim community. So are these fears against the movie Vishwaroopam exaggerated in a wave or is there a real strong case against the movie? To find it out TCN tracked the state where it all began, Tamil Nadu and the main players which made it happen.

TMMK Chief Prof. Jawaharullah:

The powerful Muslim organization of Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham (TMMK) was at the forefront to prevent Vishwaroopam from getting released in TN. Its president and MLA Prof. Jawaharullah, speaking to TCN, said, “This movie is basically a hate documentary which propagates animosity by portraying certain happenings in negative way.”

Jawaharullah, who watched the special screening of the movie hold different opinion then the mainstream movie reviewers, who declined that the movie is anti-Islamic. He said in this movie it is shown that people are reciting dua, reading Quranic verses or offering prayers before executing terror attacks. He gave an example of a scene where it is shown that a Nigerian Muslim is offering Namaz wearing Abaya just before he is going to execute a terror strike.

He also added that his party has no objection for taking up Afghanistan in the movie, but it is portrayed completely wrong that terrorism in Afghanistan is inspired by teachings of Islam and Quran. “In the whole movie in the background Quranic verses are recited during bloodbath violent scenes. In the movie Islam is shown as a barbaric religion which encourages throat slitting and public executions.” In a scene it was shown that Muslims enjoy public executions, he added.

On the other hand, after the ban was imposed Kamal Hassan issued a public statement saying that any Indian Muslim watching the movie will feel proud by the character played by him as a Muslim RAW agent saving USA.”

Responding to point made by Kamal Hassan, Jawaharullah said, “He told us the same thing before the screening of the movie. But when we watched it turn out to be not just an anti-Islamic but anti-Indian Muslim and especially anti-Tamil Muslim movie.”

“In the movie a militant trainer in Afghanistan is said to have lineage in Tamil Nadu. The main villain or terrorist of the movie one eyed Omer (which portrays Taliban Chief Mullah Mohammed Omer) speaks Tamil as he had spent one year in Coimbatore and Madurai,” he says.

“And it is also shown that main villain considers Tamil Muslims as sympathizers and assets of militants in Afghanistan. Coimbatore is taken intentionally in the scene due to the Coimbatore blasts whose wounds are still fresh in the minds of Tamilians,” alleges TMMK MLA.

Tamil Nadu Muslims protesting

He wonders what Kamal Hassan wanted to achieve by showing that main terrorist visited Coimbatore, stayed there and made Tamil Muslim sympathizers.

He added, “As an Indian Muslim and as a Tamil Muslim, I didn’t feel any pride at all, watching us portrayed as terrorist’s sympathizers.”

TMMK Chief alleged that Kamal Hassan has not done this for the first time by putting Muslim community in negative image. In ‘Hey Ram’ as well as in some earlier movies too he portrayed Muslims in bad lights, but in Vishwaroopam he has crossed all the lines, he says.

On the allegation that TMMK and other Muslim organization are doing what Kamal Hassan called ‘cultural terrorism,’ Jawaharullah said the use of term only shows the nature of the man.

He said that his organization is taking the matter democratically, but one ‘small group’ (indicating to Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamath, a breakaway group from TMMK) has taken to streets in this matter. But he also added that they have a right to protest and it is there fundamental right to protest when Quran, Namaz, and Dua is being used to define terrorist attacks.

To strengthen his argument in favour of ban, TMMK chief cited the example of recent ban on Dam 999 movie in Tamil Nadu considering the ‘sentiments of Tamilians’, and a ban which was also upheld by the Supreme Court.

Jawaharullah also added that even if you make a movie you have to create a balance in your message by giving full facts. He said “Mr. Hassan has chosen to put half-truth of Afghanistan war, portraying America as a victim of terror. He doesn’t take into account what the reason behind the start of the violence in Afghanistan, which is due to the imperial ambitious and hegemony of United States.”

In the south Indian regional news channels the summary was making rounds that Kamal Hassan movie was targeted by Chief Minister Jaylillatha as Kamal Hassan failed to launch his movie on the DTH platform with Chief Minister’s Jaya TV as promised. Since TMMK is an ally of AIADMK they are singling out his film and targeting him.

But TMMK chief termed those allegations “absolutely baseless.” He said his party was in alliance with the AIADMK at the time of elections. But after the elections they have parted ways with AIADMK and even criticized the government on different issues. He said that his party is not playing as a puppet in other’s hands.

He went on to accuse Kamal Hassan of “executing some other agendas by getting into the hands of fringe elements.”

As soon as the ban was episode, social media was buzz in declaring Indian Muslims anti-national. Some reputed social pages were demanding Muslims to leave India and go to Afghanistan, if they care so much about their Muslim brothers there. Whole community was dammed as intolerant .When TCN asked TMMK chief that by its actions does they depicted Muslim community as intolerant, MLA Jawaharullah said it is not the question of being intolerant but of protecting the dignity of the community.

He said, “Some bomb blasts were carried out by right wing Hindu groups in India. If tomorrow a film is to be made on Malegaon blasts depicting Bhagvat Gita and Ramayana as an inspiration for those blasts, how idiotic it will look. And there will be condemnation from all across the nation. If they are seeing us intolerant then should at least see it in objective outlook.”

Tamil Nadu Muslims protesting against the film

Regarding the freedom of expression of artists which many felt is being curtailed due to the ban on Vishwaroopam, TMMK chief asked where were the champions of freedom of expression when Tamil movies like Kaatrukku enna veli on the sufferings of Tamils in Srilanka was banned by the Indian Government.

He said, “There was no hue and cry when Kaatrukku enna veli was banned, there was no statement from Rajnikanth or other cinema personalities condemning it. Why are they selective in their approach, why they see intolerance only when Muslims are protesting?”

When asked has his organization started to play the role of cultural police to control cultural and artistic freedom, TMMK chief said they are not against artistic freedom of expression. But he said that this freedom has to be coupled with social responsibility and it definitely cannot be carried out at the cost of Muslim beliefs.

He also added that Tamil cinema is a very powerful potent force which changes political and cultural structure of the state. So the cinema personalities have the social responsibilities and which they have to take care off while making a movie.

Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamath:

Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamath which is protesting vehemently against the movie also echoes the apprehensions made by TMMK on Vishwaroopam release. TNTJ spokesperson Mohammed Sithiq said that the Tamil Muslim terrorist image which the Vishwaroopam presents is really a threat to the social fabric of Tamil Nadu and could affect the minds of the gullible public.

“That film which depicts that Quran teaches terrorism and Indian especially Tamil Muslims are involved in international terrorism was going to be released in 500 theaters across Tamil Nadu. Now each theater has 200 seats which run three shows in a day, which comes to 3 lakh people a day. If this film runs for a month then it will indoctrinate nearly 1 crore Tamilians that any Muslim who perform prayers, have beard, or read Quran is a terrorist,” TNTJ spokesperson said.

Continuing narration of his fear, Sithiq added that movies like Vishwaroopam are not only watched by general public but by police, government officials, and even judges and many other high profile people. He asked what image of Muslims is going to get into their minds. TNTJ believe it will change the mindset of the society which will help system to get more bias towards Muslims.

TNTJ, like TMMK, reiterated their stand that they are not against freedom of expression, but they expect even super stars to follow rules and restrictions given in the Constitution regarding freedom of expression which is not an absolute right.

TNTJ agrees that Vishwaroopam is not the only film which might be propagating stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists, but TNTJ said they want to make an example out of Vishwaroopam so that others will think twice before depicting negative image of Muslims. TNTJ said they also believe Kamal Hassan after losing few crores will also learn a lesson from it.

But it is not up to TMMK or TNTJ to decide the fate of the film or to resolve whether Vishwaroopam is indeed an anti-Islamic film or it crosses the border on freedom of expression. Madras High Court was supposed to give a ruling on the fate of Vishwaroopam in Tamil Nadu on Monday. It has now been deferred till tomorrow. This judgment will have an impact on the demands for banning it in other parts of the country.

But TMMK has already declared that if the Madras High Court’s single bench lifts the ban, they will immediately approach the larger bench of the court to get a stay on the ban on the film screening.

On the other hand TNTJ spokesperson said that if the Madras High Court lifts the ban they will protest in front of the court first, then they will protest in front of all the theaters which will be screening the movie in Tamil Nadu and they will stop people from entering into the theaters and will not allow the screening of this movie at any cost.


Vishwaroopam: Stereotyping Muslims as terrorist in Indian cinema