Javed Akhtar, a prominent Indian screenwriter, and lyricist have gained an unlikely admirer in Raj Thackeray, the far-right Hindu leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). During a recent rally in Mumbai, Thackeray praised Akhtar’s stance against Pakistan and called for more Indian Muslims to follow in his footsteps.
Thackeray’s comments were in reference to Akhtar’s participation in the Faiz Festival in Lahore, where he made a statement about the Mumbai terror attacks. Akhtar said, “The attackers weren’t from Norway or from Egypt. They are still present in your country, so you should not be offended if an Indian complains about this.” This comment received applause from the Pakistani audience at the festival.
Akhtar also expressed his displeasure that while India has hosted many Pakistani artists in the past, Pakistan has not hosted singer Lata Mangeshkar. When questioned about the festival upon his return, Akhtar expressed his embarrassment about the attention he received and wondered if he should continue attending such events.
However, he defended his right to express controversial opinions, saying, “I make such controversial comments in the country where I was born and will die – why would I be scared in a country I was visiting for two days? I am not scared here, why would I be scared there?”
Thackeray’s praise for Akhtar’s stance against Pakistan is surprising given his far-right Hindu views. However, it is a positive step towards acknowledging that not all Indian Muslims share the same views as those who support Pakistan.
It is important to note that Akhtar’s comments were not intended to be anti-Pakistan, but rather to call attention to the presence of extremist elements in the country. His statement is a reminder that terrorism is a global issue that affects us all, regardless of our nationality or religion.
Overall, Akhtar’s stance on the Mumbai terror attacks and Thackeray’s praise for his views are both significant in their own ways. It is encouraging to see that even in a climate of tension and division, there are voices of reason and moderation that seek to build bridges between communities and promote understanding.