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No one took my side of the story: Shireen Dalvi  #FOE

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India’s only woman editor of an Urdu daily, in hiding after reproducing a cover of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, rues the lack of understanding among her journalistic peers
The year-old Mumbai edition of the Lucknow-based Urdu daily Awadhnama has been closed down; its editor, 46-year-old Shireen Dalvi is on the run, with FIRs being filed against her on a daily basis across the state.So are her two children, who’ve stopped attending college and whom she hasn’t met since January 17, the day she reproduced a cover of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo on Page One.

The ensuing furore prompted Dalvi to issue a front page apology the next morning. She also wrote an editorial blaming Charlie Hebdo for provoking Muslims, but she advised Muslims to reply to such provocations with knowledge and wisdom, not violence. She reminded her readers that Islam had been spread by good deeds and love.

The editorial sums up Dalvi’s personality: always willing to engage in debate, and looking at everything from both sides. That’s why she is hurt that reports about her have been published in some Urdu papers without getting her side of the story.

The first report said that a subeditor had warned her not to carry the Charlie Hebdo cover, and alleged that she had dismissed the warning saying, “One should be broad-minded; at best a few hundred copies will be burnt.” Denying this, Dalvi says no one at office had said a word about the picture. The man quoted in this report had not even been present in office when the issue was being made, she says, as he had been fired two days earlier.

Dalvi had meant to reproduce the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo purely as an illustration to go along with a report. The report quoted the Pope’s remarks on limits to freedom of expression, and also how the killings had pushed Charlie Hebdo’s circulation sky-high.

By mistake, she reproduced an old cover showing a caricature of a bearded man in tears, covering his face and lamenting, “It’s hard to be loved by i d i o t s ” , w i t h t h e h e a d l i n e ‘Muhammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists’.

Not knowing French, she had not understood what was written. Her editorial says Muslims should not take Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures as representing the Prophet. “There exists no image of him, so how can we infer that this picture is a caricature of him?” Subsequently, some Urdu newspapers have alleged that she is being used by the RSS’s women’s wing, and is a follower of Taslima Nasreen. “I have never written anything about Taslima Nasreen, but I do believe that it is the duty of the majority community to look after the minority. That’s what her first novel was about -the harassment of the minority in Bangladesh,” she said.

This refusal to tailor her opinions to appease public opinion is another Dalvi quality. She has angered many by insisting that rather than wallowing in victimhood, Muslims must correct their own public conduct. She is no stranger to public wrath -as a 21-year-old, she had to face hostile mobs in Mumbra the day she married Abdullah Kamal, a journalist twice her age and already married. After his death, she publicly condemned as “hypocritical” the memorial meeting called in his honour by those who had given him a raw deal.

Incidentally, though she has been writing since her student days (she met her husband as a contributor to his paper), she began writing under her own name once more, dropping the pseudonym her husband had given her only after he passed away in 2010.

Among Dalvi’s mentors, apart from her husband, is editor of Hindustan Sarfaraz Arzoo, and the late Sajid Rashid, with whom she worked as associate editor in Sahafat.

In the fourth grade, Dalvi had been the Zilla Parishad topper in Kausa. After her principal requested her parents, she continued studying in the same school as the only girl in her class till Class VII. She then became the only girl from Kausa to attend school in Thane. And till a fortnight ago, she was the country’s only woman editor of an Urdu daily – a status she hopes to regain.

http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/index.aspx?eid=31821&dt=20150203

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