When I read Fahrenheit 451 about ten years ago I sensed instantly that it was one of the great works of anti-censorship. My wife, as alienated by censorship as I was, gave it to me. It is a classic, if by that we mean a timeless piece of work that has meaning for all generations. That is because book burners are dangerous, always have been and always will be. They burn books and then they turn their flames on people.
Ray Bradbury, author of this great novel has died at the ripe old age of 91. He had a passion for books, having been in his own words library educated, not having attended college. ‘And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone.’
That’s really what the burning is all about. They can’t abide by you not listening to them.
Sanal Edamaruku is not a name we are familiar with. He is President of both the Indian Rationalist Association and the Rationalist International. That is not why we have come to learn of him. He has entered our consciousness courtesy of finding himself in the firing line of the Catholic Church in India, which has accused him of blasphemy. Yes, even in this day and age, given half a chance, the bigots and censors will be out waving some prohibition order in your face.
Sanal Edamaruku has annoyed the holy ones for quite a while because of his sceptical disposition which refuses to allow him to share their belief in miracles. When con men in Mumbia claimed that there was a ‘bleeding statue’ in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni, the Indian Catholic Church spoke of miracles. Poor fools rushed in to drink the stuff. Imagine their horror upon listening to Sanal Edamaruku on television in March explain that the blood they had been drinking was nothing other than seeping sewage from a drain in close proximity to the church.
Infuriated, the Indian men of god, invoking Section 295A of India’s Penal Code, filed for blasphemy alleging that Sanal Edamaruku was guilty of ‘deliberately hurting religious feelings’. If convicted the persistent sceptic could face three years in jail.
All because he exposed holy water as hole water.
Stoned in Sudan but not from Pot
Intisar Sharif Abdallah is a young mother of three children. Not yet 18, she is little more than a child herself. She has been sentenced to death by stoning in North Sudan because she was judged to have committed adultery. Here adultery is something that people do; there it is something they commit. The country is lead by Omar al-Bashir. He is:
wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The president remains a fugitive of international law and continues to use "genocidal language" against his country's new neighbors - citizens of South Sudan.
No mention of him being stoned. But then genocide is something that holy books encourage whereas adultery is a taboo.
Intisar Sharif Abdallah claimed that her confession was extracted under torture. At her trial she was denied the services of either a lawyer or interpreter.The man that she was accused of liaising with, well he was set free.
The International Committee Against Stoning is outraged by all of this this and has called for people to campaign to stop this misogynistic lunacy. Amnesty International has also echoed the Committee’s stance.
In the words of a prominent member of the International Committee Against Executions, Mina Ahadi:
the people of the world must arise and declare that they will not allow these Islamic criminals to wrap a young woman in a burial shroud while she is still alive and then torture to death by throwing stones at her.