It’s good to be back from vacation and back on the media beat, but first, a story:
News of Saddam’s execution reached India around mid-morning on December 30th. I was in Kerala – a small state at the southern tip of the country – attending a friend’s betrothal ceremony at the bride-to-be’s family church. (Kerala plays host to a sizable minority of Syrian Christians, along with India’s typical mix of Hindus and Muslims.)
“We have a problem,” one of the other guests whispered in my ear during the mass that followed the betrothal. “They executed Saddam, and the local Muslims are planning to block all the roads in protest. So we’re going to have to cut things short.”
Moments later, the priest stopped the Mass to ask the (mostly Caucasian) guests staying at the nearby lake resort to please return to our buses. Once on board, our Indian hosts advised us to draw the window shades and try to keep any visible whiteness to a minimum. The bride’s brother offered to move from seat to seat peaking through the curtains and suggested that the protesters would never attack a bus that appeared to be carrying so many good-looking Indians, but this extraordinary measure proved unnecessary. Thanks to some daredevil driving and a police escort, we made it back to the resort before the “Muslim street” actually blocked the streets.
To keep our minds off the speeds at which we were hurtling down Kerala’s narrow roads, we wondered aloud why any Muslims would be angry over the death of a man who murdered hundreds of thousands of them. When we arrived back at the resort and had the benefit of more research, however, the whole episode became more understandable. The Communist Party of India has a very strong presence in Kerala, and the protests the product of an opportunistic fusion of Muslim and leftist anti-Americanism.
This is certainly nothing new, and one laments that not even the rallying around one of history’s great mass-murderers is unique to this particular alliance. It was nevertheless interesting to witness such a depressingly familiar display in such an unfamiliar place.