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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Did Mamata Banerjee say ‘we are not kafirs’? Netizens react

A video of West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee addressing a crowd on the occasion of Eid was shared on social media Tuesday and went viral instantly. While Mamata Banerjee is no stranger to making shocking and controversial remarks in her public speeches, it was the use of a particular word that caught the people’s attention. And this word was “Kafir”. 

During her speech, the West Bengal Chief Minister spoke in Hindi. It came as a surprise and unusual as the TMC matriarch was in her home state, where she takes pride in the Bengali language. 

But while addressing the gathering to share Eid’s wishes, Banerjee chose to speak in Hindi. Also, she claimed that the idea of “Achhe Din” as known to the people was fabricated. She further asserted that she would bring in the real Acche Din. Banerjee has been quoted by OpIndia as saying, “Let them do what they want. We are not scared. We are not cowards. We are not ‘Kafir’ [as heard in the video and claimed by netizens on social media]. We fight. We know how to fight. We will fight against them. We will finish them.”

The condescending term steeped in bigotry used by a state chief left Netizens spellbound as the video was retweeted and shared in large numbers on all social media platforms. While many expressed their unease over a sitting Chief Minister using this offensive term, which is usually against non-Muslims, in a public address, people also opined that Banerjee gave that speech in Hindi because she intended to provide a message to people in the state who “do not speak Bangla”.

It is indeed concerning that a top-notch political leader uses this hateful term to distance herself from the larger demography of this country. The word “Kafir” is used to denote those who are not the “people of the book”; the Hindus, the pagans, or any “Murti worshipers.” 

The word has been a weapon used by Muslim rulers to marginalize their subject races. Islamists continue to use this word to date for delegitimizing, expelling, and barring non-Muslims and Muslims who have different creedal details from those who use the word Kafir. Political usage of this derogatory word by a political head makes it imperative to study the remark and its implications as given in the fundament text of Islam, the Quran. 

The Quran identifies as kufr some traits and behaviors such as niggardliness (4:37, et al), exorbitant usury (3:130), vulgar display of charity (2:264), using religion for material gains (5:44), and haughtiness (2:34), etc. The Quran mentions mins (believers), fasiqs (wrongdoers), and kafirs (rejectionist persecutors) among all the ‘People of the Scripture’, i.e., all the organized religions (3:110-15).

Unfortunately, the unceremonious word has been romanticized by Bollywood since its inception. Songs have been written, sung, and danced to while demonizing the “Kafir”, thus making the “Kafir” a celebrated antagonist. 

West Bengal is going through a political breakdown, and violence against the Hindus by Islamists has become a regular occurrence. Such violence includes murders, attacks on doctors, police officials, rapes and grooming jihad of Hindu women, and political attacks. By calling herself “not a kafir” at this juncture, the state chief minister inadvertently justifies the attacks on the non-Muslims (the kafirs that is Hindus) by Islamists. 

Banerjee has a reputation for making bizarre and poorly framed statements that give out harmful messages to society. Her act of othering the non-Muslim communities by making a speech that decries the “kafirs” will only encourage the extremists within the Muslim community to intensify their targeting of the Hindus in the state. 

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  1. It’s a bizarre and controversial speech.
    “Let them do what they want.”
    Q. Who were they she meant for?

    “We are not scared. We are not cowards.”
    — Very good self-proclamation.
    “We are not ‘Kafir’ [as heard in the video and claimed by netizens on social media].
    Q. How did the question of ‘kafir’ arise? What was the issue that polarized her to make such a declaration?

    “We fight. We know how to fight. We will fight against them. We will finish them.”
    — Very good. But against whom you intend to fight. That is not clarified. Whom do you want to finish?


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