Last night as I hit the bed well past midnight, I could not stop thinking those 17 people.

I don’t know them – their names or faces. They were not my friends or relatives, colleagues or neighbours. All of them were Muslims. All of them were killed in protests across the Kashmir valley. So told the newspapers.

The protests which led to the deaths were triggered following a conservative Christian in the United States tearing off some pages from Quran, the holy book of Muslims. A school was torched in Kashmir, a church in Punjab.

Outrageous act, it was — the desecration of Quran (or any book, for that matter) and the torching of the school and church. Devotees and lovers of letters have every right to protest any such act. Everybody has the right to be outraged for one reason or other. But I could not fathom the loss of life in a distant Kashmir valley following a mad, I would say, conservative bigot’s illogical and foolish act to counter Islam.

Condemn the tearing, desecration or burning of Quran or any book — holy or unholy — which is a violent act, anyway. I call it violence though no blood was then shed. But violent because it was a violent act committed on the minds of the faithful and on a philosophy, which one may agree with or disagree.

But my point is something else. How can one answer the deaths of so many people following the foolish act of an American Christian or Iranian Muslim or Indian Hindu or a Jew or anyone from any other planet?

Do the faithful think that desecration of Quran by a fool or an illiterate would jeopardise Islam, which has a standing of centuries?

Is Islam so vulnerable? Is the philosophy so vulnerable that it needs brawn rather than the brain to protect it?

Does the tearing of some pages from a copy of Quran in possession of a single man will erase the philosophy which has trickled down through centuries, which has withstood many challenges through the centuries?

My answer is no.

I read Quran for the first time 12 years ago. I tried to make sense of the Communist Manifesto 13 years ago. I eagerly witnessed the Mahatma’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth 15 years ago. I finished Crime and Punishment 18 years ago. I enjoyed the first pulp fiction 23 years ago.

The impact it left, from the Malayalam pulp I read when I was eight to Quran when I was 18 to Dr Axel Munthe’s The Story of San Michelle when I am 31, is still there.

Tearing a page or two from that Malayalam pulp fiction — Anchu Sundarikal (The Five Beautiful Girls) by Mathew Mattom — or San Michelle or the Manifesto or The Holy Quran will not take away that charm, which I experienced while reading. By just tearing a page, by burning a chapter, by spitting on a book, no one can take away the printed word and its impact on human mind.

Does the protesting Muslim think that his religion or his philosophy will become extinct due to a foolish act by some mad man?

If he thinks so, then he is mistaken and he is doing a great disservice to his religion. Just don’t get provoked by a Terry Jones, the US evangelist who was little-known till a few weeks back. Then what will Jones do or the any other guy who tore the Quran pages?

If you just tell them, “brother, you burn as many Qurans as you can. Tear as many pages as you can. Nothing will happen to my religion, my way of life, my philosophy. It has withstood the challenges of so many centuries. Your ideology (Jones cannot claim he is a Christian and his philosophy has nothing to do with Christ) is going to die as your hatred is killing your faith. Your violence and ignorance is not moving me.” Give them a smile.

Oh! you may call me a fool who takes a leaf out of the Bollywood masala Munnabhai MBBS and his ‘Gandhigiri’.

But just imagine, let your imagination go wild. What will happen, IF you do that? Think. Think. Think.

Does it will have the impact you desire? What will the Terry Jones variety feel? Will they be disappointed that you are not provoked? Will the ruthlessly anti-Islam fundamentalist be so pissed off with you that you did not fall into the trap?

The courage you show, the confidence you breathe into your religion will just defeat the Terry Jones variety. Just give a try.

That, I believe, is a better option than the stereotype role of a victim. Or a suicide bomber.

(PS: I know the 17 lives lost has more to do with the tearing of pages of Quran though a TV report on this triggered the protests. Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had his agenda. He wanted to reclaim the leadership of the protests which for a brief while went to “softliner” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.)
Shemin/Sep15-Sep17, 2011

(Thanks to my ‘dost’ Anand Haridas for careful reading and editing)

(This post first appeared in


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