- Armin Navabi, founder of online free thought community Atheist Republic, enrages online defenders of Hindu faith across continents.
A tweet by Iranian Canadian atheist, activist, author and podcaster, Armin Navabi, depicting Hindu Goddess Kali in a “sexy” avatar, has raised hell on Twitter. “Okay! I’m in love with Hinduism. I never knew you had sexy goddesses like these. Why would anyone pick any other religion,” Navabi wrote. In another tweet, he said: “Dear Hindus. It is not my fault that your goddesses are sexy. Maybe someone put a hijab on them?” Navabi is the founder of online free thought community Atheist Republic, a Canada-based non-profit, and author of the book “Why There Is No God.”
The Hindu Twiterrati exploded, calling out Navabi for “sexualizing” the ‘Mother Goddess’ and criticizing him for misusing his freedom of expression and insulting their religion. The exchange that ensued between the Hindu activists and Navabi, shows us once more that while Twitter is a platform where one can easily express opinions, it is also a place which is intolerant, and unforgiving.
All Hell Breaks Loose
Although some Hindus maintained that Navabi was instigating them because they are known to be peaceful, some of the tweets, especially those targeting his mother, were particularly vile and insulting. “Just because we don’t burn a whole city even after witnessing our faith being demeaned continuously, you find yourself free to abuse our Dharma,” user Anupam K. Singh asked. While another user, Moksha, wrote: “U are probably concentrating on riling Hindus because you know no matter what you do there will be no threat to you from us and I am proud of this fact. It is also probable you are doing this to distract and placate murderous Muzlims coming at u for the Koran desecration video.”
Two days before posting the morphed Kali photo and tweets, Navabi started a twitter video campaign with hashtag #DesecrateTheQuran. In the video, Navabi who was a Muslim earlier, is seen holding the Holy Quran, tearing pages out of it and then spitting on them, tearing into pieces and throwing them away. Ironically, the video garnered a lot of praise from the Hindus, who praised Navabi’s “daring act.”
But two days later, it was a completely different scenario.
Sneha Dutta wrote: “Yes, we, Hindus worship Goddesses. We always recognized the importance of Mother Divine. Our Goddess holds all the beauty, love, anger, peace & everything exist in our nature. An inferior mind cannot understand the importance of mother. It shows your view for females.”
Another user noted that “Goddess Kali is known for a wide array of reasons: destruction, destroyer of evil forces and more, but very rarely would you see someone attribute the term ‘sexy’ to the mythological deity.”
Some criticized Navabi for what they called his “rapist” and misogynistic views. “For you, a woman is nothing more than a vagina and the mythical virgins-in-paradise are mere vagina-robots,” user Vinod Sharma wrote. “That is why you have to put your women in tents.”
Some retaliated to Navabi’s post by sharing the controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed from the French satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, which sparked off global discussions on free speech and blasphemy. Some shared photos of Navabi’s mother, posting filthy abuses, aimed at Navabi, calling him a pervert.
“The objectification of women as some sex object is nothing short of a rαpist mindset,” user Gagan wrote. “Imagine the bigotry & misogyny these people are raised w/ that even after denouncing their religion they couldn’t denounce the hate for women & their own rαpist mindset.”
Another user wrote, “What if he posted such a pic of your mother on social media? You would have felt triggered, right? But if you would be cool with even that, then it proves you have no respect for your mother! Goddess Kali is considered mother in Hinduism!! SHE IS our mother!!”
Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who these days feels it’s her moral duty to comment on each and every controversial issue, chimed in as well. “Ha ha for you to use the power of art to sexualize purity of Mahakali, Bharavi, wife of Kala Bhairav, mother of death simply depicts your suppressed sexuality, you must be getting wet nights thinking of your mother breast feeding you and pushing you out of her womb, grow up kid.”
Twitter user Harris Sultan also offered a $100,000 bounty on Navabi. “This Hindu guy is offering for anyone who beheads @ArminNavabi,” he wrote. “And then they say we are not like the Jihadis.”
But this is not all.
In India, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is seeking legal action against Navabi. VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal alleged that the intent of the Twitter post by Armin Navabi was to “incite and provoke Hindus, break peace-harmony and create unrest in the society.” In his complaint, Bansal hit out at officials of the social media platform for allowing the post, and not taking action against the concerned account holder. In his tweet, he tagged External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani along with a copy of the complaint. “We request you to book officials of Twitter India for allowing such posts and not taking action against such account holders. Also, Twitter MUST have a policy of filtering the messages which are against a region and a state,” the complaint read. Bansal alleged the intent of the post by Navabi was to “incite and provoke Hindus, break peace-harmony and create unrest in the society.”
Who is Armin Navabi?
Navabi was born and brought up in Tehran. He strongly believed in the afterlife and that hell is real. To stop himself from sinning, Navabi tried to commit suicide by jumping out his school window, which was unsuccessful. He went on to be a devout Muslim and graduated from the University of Tehran in molecular biology. Navabi eventually lost his faith in God and became an atheist. He moved to Columbia to study finance, after which he obtained Canadian citizenship in 2004.
In 2011, he founded the online freethought community Atheist Republic, a Canada-based non-profit organization with consulates in several countries worldwide such as Mexico, Malaysia, South Africa and the Philippines, giving voice to over one million fans and followers and is dedicated to offering a community for atheists around the world to share their ideas and meet like-minded individuals. The NGO has branches around the world such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines and fights for others with similar school of thought, including issues faced by the LGBTQ clan and women’s rights.
The group was first formed in 2003 on Orkut, when Navabi was still in Tehran, and was called ‘Iranian Atheists’. After discovering other nonbelievers, Navabi made a Facebook page called ‘Atheist Republic’ in 2012, and subsequently made a website of the same name. Navabi had earlier tweeted a 2017 report of Times of India about Dalit activist setting fire to Manusmriti – A Hindu scripture.
Navabi is not perturbed with all the backlash. He is no stranger to it. In a recent video posted on his Facebook page, “The Hindus Are Mad At Me,” he addressed his “haters’ and read various news reports condemning his tweet. “Every once in a while we do something and we end up on the news,” Navabi said. Insisting that he is “celebrating Hinduism,” Navabi said: “The fact that she (Goddess Kali) is sexy, is not going to take away or deny her other features.” He added that when it came to consent, the Goddess can deal with it herself because if anyone messes with her she is powerful enough to behead them.
There was also a word of advice. He let the Hindus know that they were in fact helping him prove his point. That they were being “useful idiots.” Encouraging his haters to “keep the insults coming,” Navabi said, “the whole point of me posting that (the morphed image of Kali) is to show how easily triggered you guys are. You guys are doing my activism for me. You have proven to the world that you are such an easy target.” There was a warning as well. “If you think this is disrespectful, I have to show you the disrespectful side of me.” However, Navabi it appears that started working on his next “trigger” group. “How can we trigger the far-right now,” he asks on his Facebook page.
Bhargavi immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 and has worked with Indian American media since then in various capacities. She has a degree in English literature and French. Through an opportunity from Alliance Française de New York, Bhargavi taught French at Baruch college for over a year. After taking a break and two kids later, she went back to work in the Desi media. An adventure sport enthusiast, in her free time, she likes to cook, bake or go for hikes, biking and long walks.