Director urges Bollywood stars to break silence over citizenship law, violence

Director urges Bollywood stars to break silence over citizenship law, violence
Bollywood actor Salman Khan (R) ties a band-aid on the finger of Narendra Modi during a kite flying festival in Ahmedabad. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 December 2019

Director urges Bollywood stars to break silence over citizenship law, violence

Director urges Bollywood stars to break silence over citizenship law, violence
  • Anubhav Sinha called on three superstar actors to break their silence about a new citizenship law
  • Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have not spoken against the law in public

MUMBAI: One of Bollywood’s leading directors called on its three superstar actors to break their silence about a new citizenship law that has triggered riots in India, saying they could influence millions of fans.
At least 21 people have died since crowds took to the streets enraged by the Hindu nationalist-led government’s legislation, which critics say discriminates against Muslims.
The violence and the political storm raging around it has posed a dilemma for a film industry that is dominated by Muslim actors, directors and crew but caters for India’s broader, predominantly Hindu population.
A handful of figures have spoken out against the law and the violence, some at rallies in Mumbai, the heart of Bollywood. But none of its three leading stars — Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan — have made public statements. All three are Muslim.
“I am really angry at anyone who has not spoken out,” director Anubhav Sinha, a critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told Reuters.
“These three actors and their fan following is something else. One word from them can influence millions,” added Sinha, who directed Shah Rukh Khan in the 2011 film “Ra One.”
He said it did not matter what they said about the law or the violence, just that they contributed to the debate. “I am not saying they should agree with me or others. Their opinion can be the opposite of what we have.”
None of the three Khans, who are not related, responded to Reuters requests for comment.
Industry insiders say the lack of comments or condemnations by some of the industry’s biggest names points to a broad cultural difference from Hollywood — where actors regularly take up political causes and criticize the government.
“In America, (President Donald) Trump cannot use the government machinery to go after actors who disagree with him, but here, that fear is very much there,” film critic and journalist Rajeev Masand told Reuters.
Modi has regularly appeared alongside actors and film industry figures at public events. The industry has, in turn, produced films that some critics have said approached political endorsements.
Three movies have appeared this year with lead actors in prime ministerial roles, including a biopic titled “PM Narendra Modi.”
Actress Sayani Gupta — who appeared with Shah Rukh Khan in his 2015 film “Fan” — last week retweeted a selfie that popular young actors including Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt took with Modi at an event. She added the message: “The time has come to speak up guys.” A representative for Ranveer Singh said he was not available for comment while Bhatt’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond.
For protesters, especially those at Jamia Millia University in New Delhi, where Shah Rukh Khan was enrolled in his youth, his silence feels like a betrayal.
“Someone like him staying silent is unacceptable,” said literature student Zoya Nadeem Azmi.

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

Updated 03 December 2020

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown
  • Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected were found to promote extremism they would be closed down
  • Inspections are part of France’s response to two attacks — the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a Nice church

PARIS: French authorities will inspect dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of radical teachings starting Thursday as part of a crackdown on extremists following a spate of attacks, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin told RTL radio that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected was found to promote extremism they would be closed down.

The inspections are part of the government’s response to two brutal recent attacks that shocked France — the October 16 beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the stabbing to death of three people in a church in Nice on October 29.

Darmanin did not reveal which places of worship would be inspected. In a note he sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country.

On Twitter Wednesday he said the mosques were suspected of “separatism” — a term President Emmanuel Macron has used to describe ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The rightwing minister told RTL the fact that only a fraction of the around 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France were suspected of peddling radical theories showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”

“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that (radicalization),” he said.
The killing of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a class on free speech, at a school outside Paris sent shockwaves through France, where it was seen as an attack on the republic itself.

In the aftermath of his murder the authorities raided dozens of associations, sports groups and charities suspected of promoting extremism.
They also ordered the temporary closure of a large mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin that had shared a vitriolic video lambasting Paty.

The government has also announced plans to step up the deportations of illegal migrants on radicalization watchlists.
Darmanin said that 66 of 231 foreigners on a watchlist had been expelled, around 50 others had been put in migrant detention centers and a further 30 had been placed under house arrest.

The minister announced the latest clampdown after receiving fierce criticism for pushing a bill that would make it harder to document police brutality.

Images of officers beating up black music producer Michel Zecler in his studio brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last weekend against Darmanin’s push to restrict the filming of the police in the new bill.
MPs from Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party have since announced plans to rewrite the legislation.