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‘Dictating what is India n’: backlash over Urdu phrase in fashion advert


‘Dictating what is Indian’: backlash over Urdu phrase in fashion advert

Released just as festival season is kicking off across India, it looked like your average advert for festive attire. Models posed, resplendent in red and gold, showing off the newest collection by Fabindia that was said to “pay homage to Indian culture”.

Yet, in just a matter of hours, the poster had sent convulsions through India. A boycott was called against Fabindia, a staple brand in the country, and by the end of the day the advert had been taken down after it was deemed offensive to Hinduism by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and right-wing Hindu groups.

The vehement objections to the Fabindia advert were a direct response to the name of the collection, “Jashn-e-Riwaaz”, a phrase that means “celebration of tradition” in Urdu.

According to BJP figures, rightwing commentators and Hindu groups who waded in, the use of Urdu in an advert for a clothes collection associated with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was “culturally inappropriate” and offensive to Hinduism.

Urdu is a language which has its origins in India. It is recognised in the constitution as one of the country’s official languages and is what some of India’s most celebrated poems and love songs are written in. Yet in recent years its use has become increasingly politicised in the public sphere, often decried as the “Muslim” language of India’s rival, the neighbouring Islamic country of Pakistan.

Tejasvi Surya, a BJP MP, tweeted: “Deepavali is not Jash-e-Riwaaz. This deliberate attempt of abrahamisation of Hindu festivals, depicting models without traditional Hindu attires, must be called out”. His call for an economic boycott of Fabindia quickly gained traction online.

The objections and trolling escalated further over outrage that the women in the Fabindia advert were not wearing a bindi, the coloured decorative dot often worn by Hindu women on their foreheads, and a subsequent hashtag #NoBindiNoBusiness began to trend on Twitter.

Rohit Chopra, a professor of communication at Santa Clara university who studies Indian media, described the objections to the used of “Jashn-e-Riwaaz” in the Fabindia advert as “completely bizarre”.

“It’s part of this BJP imperative to somehow purify Hinduism, to have this model of Hinduism which is completely divested, and bleached clean of any Islamic or Muslim influences,” said Chopra. “But it’s bogus. Language does not map on to religion; just as Hindi is not the exclusive property of Hinduism, Urdu is not the property of Islam.”

Fabindia later clarified that the collection was not its Diwali collection, which would be released later, but still chose to take the advert down. “We at Fabindia have always stood for the celebration of India with its myriad traditions in all hues. Our Diwali collection called ‘Jhilmil is Diwali’ is yet to be launched,” said the company spokesperson.

‘Teaching Muslims a lesson’
It was not the only advert this week to face such accusations of religious offence against India’s Hindu majority. On Friday, an advert by a tyre company featuring one of Bollywood’s biggest actors, Aamir Khan, was accused by BJP MP Ananthkumar Hegde of creating “an unrest among the Hindus”. The advert featured Khan, who is a Muslim, advising people not to burn polluting firecrackers during Diwali.

According to Hedge’s complaint letter, aside from insensitivity to Hinduism, the real problem the advert should have tackled was the “nuisance” caused by blocking of the roads during Muslim Friday prayers and “other important festive days by Muslims” and the “great inconvenience” caused by mosques broadcasting the call the prayer.

For Chopra, there were parallels between the “sectarian targeting” of an advert starring Khan, a prominent Muslim actor who in the past has condemned the rising religious intolerance in India, to the ongoing saga involving the son of another major Muslim Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, who was recently arrested on drugs charges and denied bail, in a case where the credibility of the case has been questioned and that many have condemned as politically motivated.

“This is all about teaching Muslims, especially prominent Muslims, a lesson: that even the biggest names in Bollywood are not protected from the Modi government,” said Chopra.

Also this week, an advert depicting a lesbian couple celebrating the Hindu festival of Karwa Chauth was pulled on Monday after a BJP Minister Narottam Mishra called it “objectionable content” and threatened legal action. The hashtag #BoycottFem then began trending on Twitter, with the company accused of offending religious sentiments. The company Darbur India Limited issued a public apology and removed the advert on Monday evening.

The incidents are not isolated. Since the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, came to power in 2014 led by prime minister Narendra Modi, such accusations of insensitivity to Hinduism have been levelled more and more at films, television series and now advertising, as popular culture and media are viewed increasingly through a prism of religion in India.

Last year, an advert for a jewellery company, Tanishq, that depicted a Hindu woman married into a Muslim family had to be removed after it led to its shops being attacked, thecompany being viciously trolled online and calls for it to be boycotted.

Similarly in 2018, Close Up toothpaste pulled their #FreeToLove ad featuring Hindu Muslim couples after it was subjected to a vicious online hate campaign.

Chopra pointed out that this was a relatively new development, and while Indian advertising predominantly featured upper caste Hindu families, it also has a history of being “very secular and inclusive” and had often depicted Hindu-Muslim unity.

Notable examples include the popular 1989 television advert for the Bajaj scooter, which showed people from all Indian religions happily riding down roads on their two-wheelers, multiple ads for Red Label tea showing Hindus and Muslims drinking chai together, a 2016 advert by Surf washing power released for Ramadan, and a 2017 United Colours of Benetton ad that played on stereotypes of communal violence to show a picture of Muslim-Hindu harmony on the cricket pitch.

While Chopra said objections to such adverts were nothing new, “they used to come from fringe extreme individuals and organisations who were dismissed almost instantly”.

“Now, it’s prominent BJP voices who are legitimising these extreme views,” said Chopra. “Dictating what is ‘Indian’, what is ‘Hindu’ and what is ‘Muslim’, and making them mainstream.”

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Semitic Statements: Chicago Institute Revoke’s Kanye West’s Honorary Doctorate

The School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago has revoked the honorary doctorate degree given to rapper, Kanye West, in 2015.

According to TMZ, the president of the school, Elisa Tenny, revealed in a letter that West’s degree was revoked due to his recent outbursts of antisemitism and otherwise offensive comments.

SAIC president Tenny wrote that West’s degree was rescinded because the board found that “his anti-Black, antisemitic, and incendiary statements, particularly those directed at Black and Jewish communities, are disgusting and condemnable”.

Tenny noted that West had been awarded his degree “in recognition for his artistic accomplishments to that point in time”, however over the seven years since then, his “disturbing behaviors” and “dangerous statements” have crafted an image that “[does] not align” with the school’s “community values.”




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Ace Performer, Celine Dion Cancels 2023 Shows Over Battle With Incurable Disease

Celine Dion, veteran Canadian music artiste has opened up on her battle with Stiff Person Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes one’s muscles to tense uncontrollably.

The 54-year-old made the announcement in a video on her Instagram page on Thursday, where she disclosed that her 2023 shows had been moved to 2024.

She noted that the rare disease, which occurs in one in a million people, had caused her to have spasms.

The Power of Love singer said, “Hello everyone, im sorry it’s taken me so long to reach out to you. I miss you all so much and can’t wait to be on stage talking to you in person.

“As you know I’ve always been an open book and I wasn’t ready to say anything before but im ready now.

“I’ve been dealing with problems with my health for a long time and its been really difficult for me to face my challenges and to talk about everything that I’ve been going through.

“Recently, I’ve been diagnosed with a very rare neurological disorder called the stiff person syndrome which affects 1 in a million people

“While we’re still learning about this rare condition, we now know this is what’s been causing all the spasms I’ve been having.”

The caption of the video read, “Celine Dion reschedules Spring 2023 shows to 2024,and cancels eight of her summer 2023 shows.”

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Sammie Okposo For Burial December 15

The funeral arrangements for gospel singer, Sammie Okposo, have been released by his family.

The singer died in November 25 aged 51.

The family stated that a tribute night will be held for him on Tuesday, December 13 in Lagos State, followed by a service of songs on Wednesday.

The funeral service for Okposo will take place on December 15 and will be private affair.

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