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Bollywood Must Stop The Usage Of ‘Kafir’ And Make Amends For Past Wrongs

  • The Arabic word is used for non-Muslims. In the context of the Indian subcontinent, it has a derogatory context for idolators, and has been liberally used in communal violence since the first Islamic invasions to the recent Delhi riots.

Swati Goel Sharma and Sanjeev Newar Wednesday, December 16, 2020 5:51 pm IST
A view of the sea

A scene from a movie.

Rishi Kapoor, playing son of a rich Hindu businessman in 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 now learnt how to do “bandagi” [worshipping in Islam].

Vidya Balan, playing Vasudha in film Hamari Adhuri Kahani (2015), thanks god for being kind in blessing her with love in the form of Emraan Hashmi, saying “it’s otherwise impossible for kaafirs to reach god”.

We are not sure how exactly Bollywood came to adopt this term from its inception, especially as Bollywood has always claimed to be the voice of reform.

We are talking about an extremely disgusting word routinely used in Bollywood dialogues and songs – kaafir.

Dear Bollywood, yes, your writers and lyricists – whatever their literary pedigree may have been otherwise – have blatantly displayed bigotry whenever they have used this word. All their claims of otherwise being erudite come undone due to the usage of ‘kaafir’.

We find that this slur has been rampantly used right from the sixties to the movies released till date. We believe that Bollywood must come forward and immediately ban this hate word.

The word, originally in Arabic, means nonbeliever or non-Muslims, but in the Indian subcontinent, it refers to Hindus and idol-worshippers. The word ‘kaafir’ and its variants like ‘Kufra’ have been in use since the first invasions in the name of Islam to the recent communal riots in national capital New Delhi.

From Quran.com. 98.6

In other words, the term kaafir comes with a notion of Hindus (comprising majority of this nation where Bollywood exists) burning in hell forever because of their belief in Ram, Krishna, Hanuman or Durga.

Translation of Quran 9.3 from all major translators are 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.

It’s thus a matter of utter shame that writers and lyricists of Bollywood have attempted to not only 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 all major 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.

3. Pool in and pay Hindu religious organisations a token compensation for the damage done by Bollywood by normalising this term. This 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.

We would love to work with you to reverse this image through right affirmative actions.

(Swati Goel Sharma is senior editor with Swarajya while Sanjeev Newar is a data scientist with Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. They together run a Twitter handle named @gemsofbollywood).