Mockery of religious beliefs and customs, lampooning a people, and frivolous use of sacred terms…sound familiar? Since September 11, we Muslims have also been the brunt of endless such jokes and stereotypes promoted by Hollywood and popular culture in general.
The Love Guru, produced by Paramount Pictures, hit theaters all over North America this weekend. Rated PG-13 and starring Mike Myers, the film chronicles the humorous journey of Guru Maurice Pitka (played by Myers) as he moves from India to the United States in order to offer spiritual counseling and marital advice to a hockey player and his wife.
However, the movie has attract sharp criticism from several Hindu groups around North America, who have condemned it as a cheap and tasteless mockery of Hindu beliefs, customs, and traditions. Rajan Zed, a well-known chaplain and activist within the American Hindu community, said the movie appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus and uses sacred Hindu terms frivolously. Zed and other Hindu leaders have called for a boycott of the movie by Hindus and non-Hindus alike.
Mockery of religious beliefs and customs, lampooning a people, and frivolous use of sacred terms…sound familiar? Since September 11, we Muslims have also been the brunt of endless such jokes and stereotypes promoted by Hollywood and popular culture in general. As such, it only makes sense that we express our solidarity with our Hindu friends in opposing a movie that mocks one billion people’s religious sensibilities. For too long, Hollywood has gone unchecked in its blatant disregard for people’s religious and cultural beliefs. In the past, whenever outraged or offended people have spoken up, Hollywood has offered a half-hearted apology and shown no intention of undoing the damage. This is primarily due to the fact that such protests and anger have been small and scattered, offering no threat to the moviemakers’ revenue.
By joining our Hindu friends in solidarity, we can take a step towards eliminating the mockery and ridicule of the Sacred that so readily permeates Western society. Perhaps a long-term plan that we should consider is to reach across the aisle (or Musalla) to people of all religious backgrounds, such as Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and Native Americans, in protesting aspects of popular culture that are offensive to our religious sensibilities. Despite the frictional history of Muslims and Hindus in South Asia, we can set up a joint front by mutually boycotting pop culture items that offend our religious beliefs. Despite the lack of religious commonality, we can similarly reach out to Native American groups and boycott movies and programs that make light of their spiritual and cultural values. And despite our political differences, we can form a powerful alliance with Evangelicals and Southern Baptists in speaking out against and boycotting films and programs that make light of God, Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) or the Bible, a trend that is increasing at an alarming rate in America.
Many Muslims like to say that we live in a Kufristan, a Godless society with very loose morals and very materialistic. It is true that the First Amendment prevents any type of religious morality from being enforced in this society, but let us not forget the power of the purse and the fact that, like any business, Hollywood is concerned about its profit margin above anything else. If this society is so materialistic and driven by money, it is precisely this materialism that we can use against them. We cannot legally stop filmmakers and network executives from producing offensive and distasteful content that goes against our religious beliefs, but by forming a financial alliance with people of all faiths and religious backgrounds, we can certainly put a major dent in producers’ revenues and cause them to rethink the policy of irreverence and disrespect towards the religious sensibilities of all people, a policy that has sadly become the trademark of popular culture in recent times.