India: Censored artist renounces citizenship-Global Voices

March 2, 2010

Qatar: Artist MF Husain trades Indian passport for Qatari one

Shabina Khatri

Global Voices: February 27, 2010

The Internet is abuzz with news that controversial Indian artist MF Husain, 95, has accepted a rare offer of citizenship from Qatar, a tiny conservative country in the Arabian Gulf.

Husain, arguably one of India’s greatest painters, has been working in Qatar on a project involving the history of Arab civilization at the behest of the country’s first lady, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Misned.

The conferment of citizenship has surprised many as Husain faces numerous obscenity charges in his home country, which he left in 2006 after nude paintings of Hindu deities he produced in the 1970s were brought to light, spurring protests, vandalism and threats.

On Twitter, @Iveegee said:

This is bizarre news. What does Qatar stand to gain from giving him citizenship?

N. Ram, a journalist who first broke the news of Husain’s citizenship conferment in an editorial for the widely read English-language Indian daily The Hindu, called the development “an honour to Mr. Husain, to his artistic genius, and to the India-rooted civilisational values he represents. Nevertheless, it is a sad day for India.”

He writes:

It is ironical that a country whose religious art often portrays nudity and even overt sexuality, as in the case of the Khajuraho sculptures and the murals and frescoes of south Indian temples, has grown so intolerant as to drive into permanent exile its most famous artist.

I know no one more genuinely and deeply committed to the composite, multi-religious, and secular values of Indian civilisation than M. F. Husain. He breathes the spirit of modernity, progress, and tolerance. The whole narrative of what forced him into exile, including the shameful failure of the executive and the legal system to enable his safe return, revolves round the issues of freedom of expression and creativity and what secular nationhood is all about.

On the popular online forum Qatar Living, the news generated 116 comments before the site was shut down for maintenance over the weekend.

Some applauded Qatar, a Muslim monarchy’s support of artistic freedom, while others wondered where India, a secular democracy, went wrong.

Commenter Landcruiser_Qatar said:

Very talented person and crappy countrymen running hate campaign. Hats off to MF Hussain.

Thoufy said:

is this democracy….?????? is this democracy….?????? Very Shame to our country…

Husain’s exile from India is admittedly self-imposed, and Indian politicians are saying he is free to come and go as he pleases.

However, as dual citizenship is not possible in his home country, Husain will have to give up his Indian passport to become a Qatari.

In India, Twitterati have been responding to the news with a steady stream of messages, ranging from penitent to petulant.

@gurgaonharyana said:

m f hussain accepts qatar citizenship.big loss for india.we r such jerks.

@gulpanag said:

So Hussein accepts Qatar citizenship.Well,if his country of origin cannot guarantee his safety/wellbeing,he does have a case.

@rajizm said:

if he so couregeous let him paint some muslim painting in qatar nude and u will see he is dead next moment

What kind of freedom of expression Husain will be afforded in Qatar remains to be seen.

Qatar Living commenter heero_yuy2 said:

I hope he won’t have a hard time florishing his artistry here if we still even have some trouble on media freedom around here.

And svelte_saggi said:

Anytime that religion has been represented as art in a derogatory manner,it has ended in chaos.

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