The real sound in the ‘noise’

The real sound in the ‘noise’

At a time when threats are issued openly over a simple expression of opinion, the scope of having intellectual and healthy discussions about the existence of futile ritualistic practices is quite slim, say Muskaan Sharma and Vaibhav Ratra

At a time when free speech exists as a farce and opinions are polarised and labelled as hate-speech, religion remains a sensitive topic. It is not uncommon for it to get dragged into a conversation where a difference of opinion occurs even on a neutral issue. It is during such flare-ups that the true intolerant nature of society towards religious diversity and accommodation of varying opinions is uncovered. While standing up for one’s beliefs is commendable, shunning the existence of opposing opinions is truly conceited. The line between voicing one’s concern and being religiously insensitive runs scarily thin in today’s India and social media platforms witness such clashes frequently. To get caught in such a series of verbal crossfire over social media is a recurring affair.

The recent controversy with Sonu Nigam’s comments over a social platform complaining about the morning azaan from a mosque presumably near his house is one such example. The singer was displeased by the “forced religiousness” of loudspeakers deployed by any community or group and proceeded to rant about it on social media. Consequently,  he received an array of reactions from his colleagues in the film and music industry. But ever since his comments went on the social media space, the debate shifted to something else completely. The issue  of noise pollution and unnecessary noise generation from all kinds of religious events that often cause discomfort to neighbourhood residents got completely drowned.

The comments specifically mentioned that they did not intend to insult or derogate any religion but were taken as an attack on the Muslim community by many of his fans and social media users. A Muslim cleric even offered a reward of Rs10 lakh to anyone who would shave the singer’s head and garland him with old shoes.

At a time when threats like these are issued openly over a simple expression of opinion, the scope of having intellectual and healthy discussions about the existence of such futile ritualistic practices is quite slim.  Such polarisation of issues and careless labelling leave no space for individualistic freedom of expression. This incident does not exist in isolation. There have been times in the past when celebrities have voiced their opinions about religious practices and have faced sharp allegations from fundamentalists calling out their insensitivity towards a religion.

The issues in such incidents often divert to religion when they focus on something else entirely. The issue raised by Nigam talked about mitigating noise generation but because it contained the reference of a religious institution it was considered hate speech. Renowned names from the industry joined the debate and continued to miss the point of the debate entirely even as they talked about religious sentiment and spreading hate. Singer Mika Singh called out Nigam’s hypocrisy by saying the he participates in Hindu jagraatas that also cause the same kind of noise pollution.

Like Mika, other celebrities also spoke up but they were just looking to get their share of the limelight while the essence of the tweet became non-existent. Even Nigam played along to get his moments of news worthiness. When such a verbal war breaks out, it’s important to know that a religious spin on a socio-environmental issue and quick antagonisms often lead to muffling rational voices and creating just another “saleable” event.  



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