(This article uses and builds on a Swarajyamag.com article by Swati Goel Sharma and Sanjeev Newar, published on 21st Oct 2020. You can read the original article here.)
The year 2023 may be a good start for you to stop using the derogatory word ‘Kaafir’ once and for all. We know that the term is used in Arabic for non-Muslims. In the Indian subcontinent, we see that it has a derogatory context for Hindus and other communities that sculpt murtis of their deities for worship.
It has been liberally used to justify communal violence against non-Muslims since the first Islamic invasions in 711 AD to the communal riots that broke out in the national capital in 2020.
Please don’t pretend like you don’t understand what we are discussing. Your shiniest stars have made careers out of belittling communities that worship using murtis.
Even when Rajesh Khanna was a “superstar,“ he starred in a film called Mehboob Ki Mehendi (1971). In the film, he played a rich young Muslim man Yusuf, yearning for the love of a “Kaafir Haseena” who was just 16 years old. The song which tells his nephew about his new fascination is appalling, to say the least.
Actor Sunny Deol, playing Shahzada Izzat Beg from the famous folklore Sohni-Mahiwal, tells his beloved Sohni that he wishes to make an idol resembling her and worship it, even if that would reduce him from a Muslim to a “kaafir”. Actor Poonam Dhillon, playing Sohni, immediately tells him to do “Tauba” and not utter any words of “Kufr”.
It is a scene from the song ‘Bol do meethe bol soniye’ from Sohni-Maliwal (1984). You can watch the song here and jump to 3:37 for the scene.
Rishi Kapoor, playing the son of a wealthy Hindu businessman in the film Bobby (1973), tells a woman at a party that ever since he saw her, he has started to do “ibaadat” [devotion in Islam]. He further says that though he was never a “kaafir”, he has learnt how to do “bandagi” [worshipping in Islam] since he saw her. You can hear the song here.
It isn’t as if this usage ended with the Eastman colour era. This slur has been rampantly used from the sixties to the movies released to date.
Here is a scene from Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) where Alia Bhatt, who plays the eponymous character, approaches Don Rahim Lala (a character based on real-life Mumbai gangster Karim Lala and played by Ajay Devgn) to protect herself from a brothel visitor named Shaukat Abbas Khan who enjoys brutally thrashing sex workers while using them. In this conversation, he is referred to as the Kaafir and prostitution as “Dharam”, not “Mazhab”.
So Kaafir is a barbarian who thrashes and rapes women, while crime and prostitution are equivalent to “Dharam”?
“Khuda will decide the fate of such Kaafirs,” the don previses.
Vidya Balan, playing a Hindu woman named Vasudha in Hamari Adhuri Kahani (2015), thanks God for blessing her with Emraan Hashmi’s love, saying, “it’s otherwise impossible for kaafirs to reach God.”
Even in a film that is supposed to be a mystery thriller, Bollywood writers haven’t been able to resist taking a jibe at Hindus. Check out this gem from a film called Chehre (2021) that would please the conversion cartels.
We are not sure how and when Bollywood adopted this highly abominable term, especially since the industry has always portrayed itself as religiously neutral.
The word is worse than racist slurs banned across the globe. Several countries have banned the ‘K-word’ because of its implications.
Darul Uloom Deoband has issued several fatwas equating non-Muslims with “kaafirs”.
As per all major translations of the Quran today, the word means ‘sinner of the worst kind’. These translations also showcase rejection of Islam, Quran, or Prophet as a most heinous crime whose punishment is to be burnt forever in fire of hell.
From Quran.com. 98.6
In other words, the term kaafir comes with a notion of Hindus (comprising the majority of this nation where Bollywood exists) burning in hell forever because they believe in Ram, Krishna, Hanuman or Durga.
Whenever a communal riot happens in any part of the country, shouts of “kill kaafir” are heard. Darul Uloom Deoband has issued fatwas that admit that kaafir means both Hindu (or non-Muslim) and a sinner of the worst kind. Here are some examples.
Translation of Quran 9.3 from all major translators is proof that kaafir is a word that must not exist in the current world of pluralism.
Historic narratives from Muhammad bin Qasim till the last sultan are profusely filled with the word ‘kaafir’ used for Hindus with a sense of disgust and hate.
In 2009, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a religious-educational organisation with considerable hold over the Deoband seminary, said that Muslims must not use the term “kaafir” for non-Muslims. It was in response to a demand from then Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal.
Even when the Indian men’s cricket team lost an ordinary league game, a Pakistani Muslim commentator used the term “Kufr toot gaya” (Kufr has been destroyed). You can read more about the origins of that mindset here.
A Muslim woman named Heer Khan, arrested for making highly offensive remarks against the Hindu deity Sita, used the word “kaafir” to address Hindus.
So, dear Bollywood, the truth remains that your writers and lyricists – whatever their literary pedigree be – have blatantly displayed bigotry whenever they have used this word. All their claims of being erudite look farcical due to their continued patronage of the usage of ‘kaafir’.
Even when not in front of the cameras, your ilk continues to make derogatory comments on the Hindu way of worship.
It’s thus a matter of utter shame that writers and lyricists of Bollywood have attempted not only to normalise but also glamourise this word despite knowing its origin, history, implications and contemporary usage.
The past cannot be undone. The future, however, can be improved.
We believe that Bollywood must come forward and immediately stop using this hateful word.
We believe that all significant associations and production houses of Bollywood (including those who are seeking court action against some media persons for alleged defamation) must:
1. Announce that they will never use this word again.
2. Blip this word in all the works they have produced.
3. Pool in and pay Hindu religious organisations a token compensation for the damage done by Bollywood by normalising this term. This gesture would also set a right example for Bollywood and help counter the increasingly dwindling perception of Bollywood among people today who think that it is probably a front for nefarious activities such as drugs, terrorism and money laundering etc, and all its good contribution is merely a facade.
At Gems of Bollywood, we would love to work with you to reverse this image through the right affirmative actions.
Gems of Bollywood
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