Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Religion Poisons Everything, Including Place Names

The city most recently assaulted by Islamist cretins is properly called Bombay, as Christopher Hitchens notes:

When Salman Rushdie wrote, in The Moor's Last Sigh in 1995, that "those who hated India, those who sought to ruin it, would need to ruin Bombay," he was alluding to the Hindu chauvinists who had tried to exert their own monopoly in the city and who had forcibly renamed it—after a Hindu goddess—Mumbai ... This may seem like a detail, but it isn't, because what's at stake is the whole concept of a cosmopolitan city open to its own citizens and to the world—a city on the model of Sarajevo or London or Beirut or Manhattan.
This is not to propose a moral equivalence between the Hindu fanatics and the Muslim fanatics -- when news first broke of violent attacks in India, did anyone doubt the perpetrators would be found to be Islamists? -- but the source of the rot is the same.

Update: Not so fast? Someone more familiar with Mumbai/Bombay than Christopher Hitchens -- fancy that! -- sets the record straight:
Hitchens is completely wrong. As someone whose roots go back many generations in Mumbai, let me assure you that we've always called the city Mumbai in our local language Marathi. The name Bombay was given to the city by the British. What do you think the city was called before the Europeans arrived? It was called Mumbai ... Seriously, if the Shiv Sena had wanted to impose Hindu chauvinism on the city, they would have called the city GaneshTown. Ganesh is a major Hindu god and very popular in Mumbai. On the other hand, the goddess Mumba is so obscure that the only reason I have heard of her is because she bequeathed her name to my beloved city.
(original Hitchens bombast -- mumbaist? -- cited at Andrew Sullivan)

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