'No political party's agenda can be communal'
26/11 in one way was meant to shatter the great Mumbai dream. No one has exemplified this dreams better than the reigning superstar of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan. In an interview to CNN-IBN's Rajdeep Sardesai talks about Mumbai, Islam and terror. See 1| 2| 3entertainment Updated: Dec 07, 2008 16:49 IST
Rajdeep: Shah Rukh, thank you very much for joining us.
Shah Rukh: Thank you, Rajdeep.
Rajdeep: These are tough times for Mumbai. How does 26/11 affect you as a Mumbaikar? If I can call you that today because you are very much a part of this city, this city has made you.
Shah Rukh: I am from Delhi. I have seen riots in Delhi and when I came to Mumbai in 1993 then there were these bomb blasts and now I have seen it through 26/11. More than as a Mumbaikar, I have started feeling even more Indian than I felt before and specifically also because I like to believe that I am an educated, liberal Muslim who has a Hindu wife and two kids. More I have seen these kinds of things over the years, more it makes me realise two things very-very clearly - one the vulnerability of life and the second part is that how important it is for me, I say a very small thing which I always think now that I need to spend time with my loved ones. When I think of my loved ones now, that circle is increasing. It is not got to do with only my wife, my children and couple of friends. It is now increasing, I want to spend time with all the people I thought that I can like or love and slowly I believe this is going to make everyone in the country do the same. We are going to spread this circle of love. I think tragedy has strange sense of uniting people so it is making me feel that I need to spend every living hour of my life, which can go off like this, with people who matter a lot.
Rajdeep: Because you could be sitting at the Kandhahar or Tiffin at the Oberoi or the Golden Dragon at the Taj, one moment celebrating let us say your friend's birthday or your anniversary and the next moment there is a guy with a gun who is shooting randomly. It almost makes you philosophical.
Shah Rukh: It makes you philosophical also not only in these specific areas, you could be just walking on the roadside. What happened in Mumbai must be happening everywhere, in the railway stations and it is happening to many people. You are just walking. I get very scared now, when my kids have to be sent to school in the school bus. It could happen to anybody. The whole reality is that it could happen to anyone of us, it is not bound by areas or castes or creeds or colours. It can happen to anyone.
Rajdeep: But Shah Rukh you know in a sense what 26/11 has also done to Mumbai, is united people - Hindus, Muslims across the class divide it could be a child of privilege going to the Taj or Oberoi or be at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus taking the night train. It could be a north Indian or it could be a Maharashtrian, it has broken down all barriers.
Shah Rukh: Absolutely, if you can take away any positive from this tragedy and have some kind of peace in your heart to be able to look at that. I think the very thing that the terrorists try to destroy is unity, secularism, the economy and just the dignity of the country. I think for the first time, we all have come to realise that that very thing has actually strengthened. The unity has got strengthened and I cannot say I am glad but I can 100 per cent say that if you can take away anything positive that is biggest positive. They have now given us the biggest weapon against them and we need to utilise that in the best way possible.
Rajdeep: Which is unity?
Shah Rukh: Yes, which is unity across classes, across religions and I think the clergies should also take a note from this aspect and say okay whatever we say, whatever we do, wherever we come from, whichever religion we promoting somewhere down the line a situation has risen in our country that all of us are not going to listen to it if it is going to be lopsided. We will only listen to things which will unite us now.
Rajdeep: Because on Wednesday there was a sea of people at the Gateway of India. It started off with an SMS campaign and build out through social networking and there was a sea of people bashing the politicians but also in a strange way uniting people in wanting answers. You sense that there is a generation out there which is now coming out?
Shah Rukh: Absolutely, I am a true believer and at this point of time I also believe that at 43 I am a little older than the younger generation. But, I truly believe that we are venting right now and we need to. We are frustrated, we are cynical, we are angry and we are rightly so. At this point of time we are finding various areas to vent out, whether they are politicians, whether they are some services which failed, we will do all that but I just want to tell to the youngsters especially that don't let go off this frustration, anger and cynicism. Use it as a constructive, aggressive move towards bringing a change. I truly believe that if you waste it, forget it; there are lot of areas where whether it is politicians or ex-presence of 'X' person certain things which perhaps have been said wrong because everybody is angry rightly so they should say but do not let it go waste. Hold on to it so that constructively with the youth of this country, because it is a historical event I truly believe this. This is a historical turning point for us which is going to bring the younger people together. Ask questions and listen to the answers and if the answers are not right, re-ask the questions or change the people who are giving those answers.
Rajdeep:Are you willing to be a part of that change?
Shah Rukh: Absolutely.
Rajdeep:In what way? You are an icon for that entire generation, that generation which has grown up on Shah Rukh Khan, so are you willing to be a part of that change? I am not going to the point of saying that is Shah Rukh Khan willing to join politics, I don't know whether you'll like to.
Shah Rukh: I think there should be people who are cut for the jobs, I truly believe. I have no ants against politics or politicians or any kind of negative feeling. I also respect the fact that their hands are tied; there is going to be international scheming and thoughts to this. Of course, they were not prepared, of course I also believe that the worst politicians are opportunist, also I believe that the best politicians sometimes get their hands tied on because of this whole voting thing. They actually want a change but they want some more time but yes I am truly a part of this movement. If there is anything that I can put myself forward to as a, now I can't call myself a civilian, but at least someone who has just passed over his youth, as someone who can stand by the youth of this country and can say good do this.
Rajdeep: But not becoming a politician? I am not seeing Shah Rukh Khan in a mood of an NGR, NTR or the southern politician. That is not what you are comfortable with?
Shah Rukh: No, but I would give my full support to those who is cut off from this job, who is younger and even if there is someone from the younger politicians who is going to take stands and ask for clear-cut honest questions. There is corruption in our system and we are all corrupt but somewhere down the line if someone has to move away from it I am there. Aamir said a wonderful thing the other day in his blog that the youth needs to form a political party, they need to come forward and I am there to support them in any which way possible.
Rajdeep: You believe that the generational change must take place. We are a younger country now, 60-65 per cent of Indian population is under younger people now. Do you think the time has come for the younger politicians to come, people who inspire hope rather than cynicism?
Shah Rukh: Absolutely right. Hope with a little bit of anger which is used constructively. You need to have the madness of the youth because let me tell you the youth today is not uneducated or silly. I can always give you an example, if you can get youth somewhere in the world to behave radically like the terrorists do, you can make sure that the youth of this country also behave in a positive way. They can also well clearly take steps and measures, I can give hope as you said. They can give you amazingly realistic hope.
Rajdeep: You mentioned in the starting that you are liberal, you are Muslim. What has been interesting, your Indian identity or your Muslim identity? You are a proud Indian Muslim, now when you hear terrorists who speak on the name of the religion, speak on the name of Islam, claim that through some form of terrorism they'll actually reach jannat(heaven). What do you have to say those?
Shah Rukh: Let me clarify, I have read the holy Quran. It states that if you heal one man, you heal the whole mankind, and if you hurt one man, you hurt the whole mankind. Nowhere in the Quran does it say that jihad will lead you to jannat (paradise). As a matter of fact, the book says that in a war, you can not kill any woman, you can not kill any child and you can not kill any animal, or destroy any crops. Jihad was supposed to be propagated by the Prophet himself but unfortunately now two versions of Islam exist. There is an Islam from Allah and - I am not being anti - very unfortunately, there is an Islam from the Mullahs. I appeal to all of them to please give the youngsters, the right reading of the Quran.
Rajdeep: So, they are distorting religion.
Shah Rukh: Yes, absolutely. This is what has happened in the past 100-120 year, this is not something that is 1000-500 year ago. I'll tell you Jehad is something to be called upon by the prophet himself and Jehad also has a very simple logic if you go by what is written, there have to be debates, there has to be understanding either you convince me with your view point or I convince you with mine and even then also if we don't understand we go our separate ways. No where does Jehad says very-very clearly, I'll be very honest about it I have read it many times over last two-three years. It doesn't say anywhere that you enter someone's terrority, Jehad says that if someone else comes into your territory then you can protect yourself.
Rajdeep: Does it trouble you then? There are societies which even sent SMSs like - "Not every Muslim is a terrorist but all terrorists are Muslims". These are some SMSs which have done rounds in the middle class and upper middle class in our societies. Now people are coming to terms that there are all forms of terror.
Shah Rukh: Yes, I can't deny this anymore. Two year back I use to get very disturbed when Americans said that all the terrorists are Muslims. I use to say no but now I can't deny because 95-99 per cent of the people who are caught or shot claim to be Muslims.
Rajdeep: Though, there are hate speeches from both the communities. Hindus resort to hate speeches to Muslims and vice-versa, each of whom in a sense have mind violence.
Shah Rukh: I think both hardliners, both Hindus and Muslims I think there should be law against them that no political party's agenda can be communal be the biggest party or the smallest party , no organisation which is going to misread any of the books that is Quran or Gita should be allowed. There should be a hardliner treatment for the hardliners. This is one, secondly I'll also like to believe that this point of time that some of us are born Muslims but they have been misled. They are by birth Muslims but not by teachings. The teachings of Islam are as good, as wonderful as the teachings of Gita or the Bible. They are all the same and I think the youngsters understand this much better and that is why I have a huge hope in them.
Rajdeep:I saw a lot of posters also at the Gateway of India that day which said let us bomb Pakistan, let us destroy the terrorists based in Pakistan which are also leading to a dangerous jingoism and one level Shah Rukh Khan is an icon not only in India but Pakistan too so you can be a bridge builder so at such a time when people try to divide communities does that worry you? Should we bomb Pakistann, can we blame all Pakistani society for the acts of these terrorists.
Shah Rukh: No, absolutely not. Like I said this is a passionate reaction. That is the first reaction that comes out but I have a huge amount of faith in the goodness of Indians and I think they would understand this. When they say this, they are very clear. There is an organisation which we are assuming, the term used by Rice the 'non-state actors'. Of course if the non-state actors are in a certain state then the time has come that the state acts. I think more than me as a bridge builder, who can just be a cultural builder, it is time to act. I think no more going in buses across the roads I think the top five people from our country from the Government should sit down and say listen we have to accept this that these guys are somewhere down the line being born and brought up in a country and it is destroying their country too, it is not that it is happening only to us, it is happening to you too.
Rajdeep: So, you can't just have co-production of films, let's have a co-production on terror. Let's have a joint mechanism for terror.
Shah Rukh: Absoultely, the time has come that the both countries come together in this fight against terror. I am not sensing dishonesty but what I am sensing is that everybody is trying to protect themselves. You can't say it is not happening in Pakistan, you can't completely deny.
Rajdeep: So, Pakistan is living in complete denial?
Shah Rukh: They are living in denial and of course some of us are also reacting by saying just bomb Pakistan. Like I said the first standard of Jehad, if I was to tell you as a Muslim is debate. Let us sit down and accept the truth, accpeting the truth makes the problem vanish. Let us accept the truth that these guys are being trained there, we are not clamining that the government is doing that, we are simply saying they are being trained. Can gobvernment do something about it, yes we can. Lets try to finsih them off in the best way possible.
Rajdeep: Shah Rukh will you be able to debate with fanatics, be it a Hindu or a Muslim fanatic. Are you ready to have that debate?
Shah Rukh: I think fanatics have no ground stand, it is very easy to debate with fanatics because I think they are misinformed, illinformed and they have no ground stand. Any normal, educated, well brought up Indian or Pakistani can debate with a fanatic from either sides and win the debate very easily. They have no answers after a while, I am again and again saying that if you are following Allah's words, even if you are following Gita's words or Biblical words, there is no place anywhere which will say this.
Rajdeep: There is no place in the civilised society for an AK47, you can not take the lives of innocent people on the name of religion and claim that you are following denis of Quran? This is a complete distortion of a great book?
Shah Rukh: You and I don't know how heaven is going to be like. You and I genuinely know what god is going to be like. But I can assure you that you and I both know it very clearly that by hurting someone who is innocent there is no way, no god in this world is going to give heaven.
Rajdeep: Do you think after as a result what has happened in Mumbai, India is going to be a stronger place or a weaker place?
Shah Rukh: I think as I told that this is going to be a historical turning point of change. There is no way that this is not going to unite us together. I see an amazing amount of hope.
Rajdeep: This is like the Obama's generation coming - 'Yes,we can'.
Shah Rukh: Yes, 100 per cent. There are people who can do it and will do it. I was just telling this to someone the other day that we need to see within ourself. The youth don't have the barriers of the history so they can take calls which are new for the modern world . I am not saying bomb xyz but we can't allow people come to our houses and destroy our families.
Rajdeep: Zero tolerance for terror.
Shah Rukh: Zero tolerance for terror and lack of security. We need to set up such organisations and tell them that we will not tolerate this and right now I can sense this in the country.
Rajdeep: And, then we debate issues like terror laws, police forces, modernisation of the police. We can't have rifles against AK47. So you are saying let us have a clear debate on terror. Lets be united, let us not make it an ideological debate or a religious debate, let us make it for better laws and tougher laws without ideology?
Shah Rukh: Absolutely, if we want to win this time let not ideological and religious stuff come in our way. I think we have got a chance where we have come on the same platform where we are equally scared and I think fear is the key for unity. Let us use this fear in an aggressive and positive way without getting affected by ideological, political, communal things.
Rajdeep:So fear is translated to anger which hopefully is going to be translated into action?
Shah Rukh: But it is constructive aggressive action.
Rajdeep: I sense in you a potential politician. I am tempting you again in some way, do you see yourself to have that kind of a role in public life or do you think Shah Rukh Khan's role is to be a cultural ambassador who also has a strong view on issues which put you as a role model and you can communicate to the younger generation?
Shah Rukh: I'll be honest. I truly believe a politician has to be completely selfless, has to it for a community, area, state and country. I'll be very honest about it. I am not scared but I am not selfless enough to be a politician. I wish five year down the line I become selfless and if I could do something for this country which has given me everything that I am today. I won't lie that I don't want to be a politician but I don't have the right qualities to be a politician. I am still too caught up in my own small world for making things work for myself and for my family.
Rajdeep: But, you said 26/11 has changed you and the world of many-many Indians, you believe it is a very-very defining moment
Shah Rukh: Absolutely, I can't say we are fortunate but we are in the middle of an amazing, historical event which is only going to make our country stronger. At the same time, I can't say I am happy but I am at peace if I can be a part of this movement. And, if I can be a part of this movement in a longer term as you said as a politician but I am not selfless enough. But I am sure there are enough people outside who are selfless enough to do this.
Rajdeep: Shah Rukh it has been a pleasure talking to you. The words you have said today echo across the country and your thoughts need to be understood by every man. Thank you Shah Rukh.
Shah Rukh: Thank you.