Odd, perhaps, that today I read news about two lawsuits that settled, and both concern, well, sex.
One of those cases — against Bob Filner, the ex-mayor of San Diego — is satisfactory to me (I’ve written previously about the mess Filner made and especially refer you back to the brilliant Gail Collins column about this case).
This is only one of the lawsuits against Filner; I’d guess we’ll have news of further settlements later on. Can’t imagine San Diego is going to trial to defend Filner any time soon. I’ll bet the city’s legal department is saying, “Pay ’em, pay ’em, pay ’em!”
But the second lawsuit settlement is deeply disturbing. And since the lawsuit against a book by a (woman) Hindu scholar originated in India, it’s yet another confirmation of my expanding suspicion that most of the rest of this planet is occupied by anti-female primitives.
Here’s what it’s about: sex. Oh, and hurting a religious group’s feelings. (Here’s a hanky, let’s wipe those tears.)
BANGALORE — Penguin Books India, a unit of Penguin Random House, has agreed to withdraw and destroy all copies of a 2009 book on Hinduism by an American scholar to settle a lawsuit by a Hindu nationalist group that had objected to the book’s portrayal of the religion.
In a copy of the out-of-court settlement dated Feb. 4, which has been widely circulating online, Penguin Books India said it would complete the withdrawal of “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” by Wendy Doniger, a University of Chicago religion professor, within six months.
The lawsuit had been filed by Dina Nath Batra, the head of Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a Hindu educational organization in New Delhi, in 2011. Prior to the lawsuit, he filed a notice to Ms. Doniger and Penguin Group USA, then the parent of Penguin Books India, in 2010, saying that Ms. Doniger’s book “has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus” and therefore breached section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.
The book, which was released in the United States and India in 2009, offended Hindus because of its “tendency to over-eroticize” the religion, said Ashok Malik, a journalist who reviewed “The Hindus” when it first came out. “I thought it was overdone.”
However, he did not support Penguin Books India’s decision to withdraw the book. “Why did Penguin go for an out-of-court settlement? They could have waited for a judgment,” he said. “This is part of a larger trend where publishers keep away from controversial topics.”
In a New York Times book review, the author Pankaj Mishra called the book “a salutary antidote to the fanatics who perceive — correctly — the fluid existential identities and commodious metaphysic of practiced Indian religions as a threat to their project of a culturally homogenous and militant nation-state.”
Apparently India does not grasp the liberating concept of separation of church and state. Apparently. Can you imagine what would happen in this country if a book “hurt the religious feelings of millions of [fill in the blank]”? Can you imagine a similar U.S. penal code law (this isn’t a civil law, you understand; it’s penal, i.e., criminal)?
I can, because recent lawsuits for religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act are leaning heavily in that direction — especially the “hurt feelings” direction.
In the meantime, I’m really pissed at Penguin and join Ms. Doniger in being angry.