Thursday, August 10, 2006

Put out the Fire, Agni Koothu ( Theatre of Fire)

In a multiracial, multi-religious, multi-lingual society such as Singapore, where diversity is pervasive, unity will be its strength and disunity will be its death knell. In such a highly diverse country disunity is worth less than a match but combustible enough to set everything on fire, whereas unity is less eloquent than charming words but supreme enough to propel the country to greater heights. We cannot allow elements to sow discord, suspicion or divides. We equally cannot permit anyone to promote racism or intolerance.

Pharoah was an unjust and cruel king who oppressed the tribe of Israel. When God sent Moses, peace be upon him, the mission was to establish justice. Moses, peace be upon him, did exactly that. However as the tribe of Israel only knew how to live by justice with no sense of love, they became territorial. God then had to send Jesus son of Mary, peace be upon him, to establish love.

Modern Singapore as we all know was built by a lawyer who came at a time where crime was high, injustices were vast etc. His natural response was to establish justice which he did impressively. People too have learned how to live by the law. An unfortunate outcome is that of a society having many people who only have a sense of "law" but no sense of love, hereby being territorial. To them nothing is wrong as long as its not criminal or illegal. However not everything that is legal and non-criminal is not cruel or unethical. HOwever for one to understand ethics, a heart is required. The pursuit of "justice" or "law" alone without a sense of love, will only kill that heart within us. When that heart in us dies, we become a beast that is territorial, vicious and cruel. Agni Kootthu is one such entity. They simply have no regard for anything unethical, intolerant, insensitive as long as they can legally do it. To them, their territorial instincts will only have them naively believes its not a wrong but their fundamental right. In fact they are now aggressively trying to rally up support to pressure authorities to relax the laws for this or future productions. Legal boundaries of expression dont necessarily start and end with social boundaries of expression. In a multi-racial society like this, should a community identify a boundary of expression as the limit, others must respect it. As artists, one must have greater sense to respect these limits of others and not insist on straying these social boundaries till restrained by legal boundaries. Thats beastly behaviour.

Thenmoli, Agni Kootthu's president, was behind the staging of Talaq play some years ago which stereotyped Indian Muslim community as being ridden with women abuse. Even when the authorities banned the play to protect sensitivities of the Indian Muslim community, she attempted to stage it forcibly and had to be arrested to prevent it. Now again Agni Kootthu has produced a racially insensitive play which again the authorities has banned and Thenmoli is again getting confrontational. Refer to her reply here

Agni Kootthu must realize that their zealeous and radical attitudes amount to nothing less than racism. They are nothing less then being intolerant. What they are doing is unethical, even if they are to be allowed to do it legally. This form of Hindu fundamentalism and secular extrimism will only bring about divides, confusion and destroy goodwill. Their fiery brand of fanaticism is racism not arts. Its racial harrassment. Agni Kootthu need to put out their fire....

If Agni Kootthu really want to explore and address issues in other communities, they have to do it with a sense of love not with a sense of fire.


At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read or watched the play, Talaq?

Don't you think that arriving on conclusions based on the conclusions of NAC and PELU is dangerous and is an abdication of your own responsibility as an individual to decide for yourself the nature of the play?

Don't you think the kind of name-calling you are engaging in, like calling Agni Koothu 'Hindu fundamentalists' and 'secular extremists', especially for someone who has not read the play, is tantamount to being racially inflammatory?

I think this whole posting is to be completely discredited, because there is zero discussion on the contents on the play, and only wild speculations on the assumed threats represented by the play.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger ney_reed said...

i greatly appreciate your reply and thank you for that. i also respect your views.

there are two things i will like to point out. firstly i am not name calling. you are taking things totally out of context. i am simply trying to intellectually express my sentiments and perceptions having been misrepresented and demonized along with my community by a handful of individuals who irresponsibly, ignorantly and intolerantly handled a serious issue. what i wrote was mere criticisms of how Agni Koothu handled issues. now if i was name calling i wont be using such words and instead will have chosen other words.I am merely engaging in discussion not a confrontation. If you are offended by it, I sincerely appologize for I do not wish or need to offend anyone. I can remove whatever words that you deem is inappropriate because all I want to deliver with my posting is the message that Agni Koothu is very confrontational, insensitive and intolerant in its attitude and actions hereby racially inflammatory and this hence can only create friction and large problems not bring people together or solve serious issues in communities or problems.

Secondly the response that you have read in my posting is the response what the play and subsequent Agni Koothu actions has invited. My response has in turn invited this reponse from you. If you sit back and reflect, you can see how the play has been unbelievably insensitive and intolerant and racially inflammatory. Hereby it killed the chances for a healthy discussion, dialogue and engagement. I exercised full caution on my part to objectively and intellectually address the issue. Yet , from your reply i can see it does not allow for a healthy discussion.

When we address issues of another race or religion or tribe or country or ethnicity, we need to be sensitive and tolerant. We gotto ask ourselves that in such instance if we deal with the others in an uncivilized way with a confrontation or in a civilized way through dialogue. We gotto ask ourselves what outcomes do we want. Peace and unity or Confrontation and divisions?

The path that the organizers took for Talaq was an extremely insensitive and intolerant one. I have lived long abroad and I had been active in inter faith relations dialgoue, debate and discussions and inter faith activities many of which also included arts activities. I have had seen so many extremely highly charged issues being handled so positively and in a healthy manner. It was so depressing when Agni Koothu turned what was a serious issue but not a highly charged one into a communal issue through its way of handling it.

This shows the lack of culture for a positive and healthy engangement over issues that can be very sensitive.

I urge that you reflect and think of ways that can perhaps reverse all these damages that has been done through Agni Koothu's plays through some alternative but positive and healthy dialogue, discussion and interaction.

Once again i thank you for your reply. have a good day.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger ney_reed said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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