Radio Jockey Sooraj of 98.6 FM, a Malayalam Radio station in Qatar, has announced that he is stepping down from his role at the station following a social media outcry over his comments supporting three Muslim girls who danced publicly at an AIDS awareness function in Kerala.
Following the usual style of his Facebook videos, RJ Sooraj had mocked religious fundamentalists who were criticizing the girls and called the the girls ‘courageous and bold’.
The self-confessed Left-leaning RJ had built up quite a fan base Qatar for his strong ‘anti-Fascist’ stance. He regularly attacks the rise of the Hindu right wing in his videos.
However, pointed out the RJ in his apology video, “the same people who used to say ‘I support Sooraj’ have now changed to ‘I hate Sooraj’.”
“A lot of people have threatened to burn me alive, beat me, kill me, imprison me and so on…
“I have understood my mistake. I will never come up with such a video again. I will no longer be hosting my show from 7-9 pm. I will try not to appear again on this radio station as a host again,” he said in his latest video that has already been viewed 300,000 times in just two hours.
RJ Sooraj’s original video supporting the girls’ right to dance publicly followed his usual ‘anti-Fascist’ style in which he took fundamentalists — usually from the Hindu right wing — to task.
“I came across three really bold girls in a video,” said RJ Sooraj in his original video on his Facebook profile. “However, instead of encouraging them, a lot of (cranks) have invaded social media saying things like ‘you are not supposed to do this, you are supposed to remain inside your homes, you are going straight to hell’,” he said, mocking the tone of voice that many of the critics were taking.
He reminded them that barely a week ago, they were making exhortations about women’s rights.
“Just one week ago, these very same people had come out with exhortations about female liberty, calling for the freedom of Hadiya. You even put the Supreme Court in the docks, asking whether Hadiya had no personal freedoms? Didn’t she have the right to live as she wants?”
“I want to ask you now: Don’t these three girls also have personal freedom? Don’t they have the right to dance? Or is personal freedom something that you give as an ‘add-on offer’ only to those who come to your religion from other religions?”
Sooraj went on to say that it is the duty of moderates in all religions to keep such extremists in check.
RJ Sooraj’s criticism seemed to have hit a raw nerve among many Muslim non-resident Keralites working in the Gulf, particularly his imitation of the tone of religious speeches.
Besides unleashing an online campaign involving comments on the RJ’s Facebook Page, miffed ‘fans’ of the RJ moved to get the star fired from his Radio Station.
However, before coming up with the apology video, Sooraj tried to reason with his ‘fans’ with another Facebook post.
“Why so much intolerance when someone speaks his opinion?” Sooraj asked in a post on Monday.
“Is this how you used to react when I was discussing (extremism) coming from another religion?.. Those who are threatening to kill me and cursing me, is this what you have learnt from the religion of peace?” he asked in a post that continues to remain on his Facebook profile.
While the apology and resignation offer has calmed nerves on one side, it has also created its own reactions.
The most ‘liked’ comment under the apology video is one from Sudhish Babu, with about 1,800 likes in one hour.
“I hope you understood what real intolerance feels like. Your mistake was in expecting the same kind of reaction that you get when you criticize Modi and RSS,” Babu said.
On the other hand, many miffed fans seemed to have been placated by the resignation. “When someone we love hurts us, it becomes unbearable,” said Shajahan Thannikkal in a comment that has been liked 1,700 times in one hour. “This was not about religion or extremism. Your comments hurt us, and we welcome your decision to say you were wrong,” he said.
In his apology video, the RJ said fame and reputation were like a fine a rose blooming on the side of stream.
“I have realized that it doesn’t take much for it to disappear like a rose whose petals are carried away by the stream,” said Sooraj.