Monday, September 13, 2010

The Tragic Dismissal of Professor T J Joseph - a teacher's point of view

The sacking of Prof T J Joseph disturbed me just as it had all right thinking people of the state. I was itching to write about it but my usual hesitation to criticise the church held me back till now. Now i can no longer rein in my feelings of extreme distress.

I am a college lecturer myself, and so i understand how things happen in a college, how the question papers are set.

Paper setting is not an easy job. Even without all the political correctness we have to worry about, it is a difficult job. A lot of time, thought and planning goes into it. The questions have to cover the entire portions allotted, it has to focus on those portion that were not covered in earlier exams, the portion covered in the earlier exams cannot be ignored though. Besides all this the paper has to be impeccable, factually and language wise. A teacher spends a very long time taking care of all these, and is very careful. But despite all the efforts, errors creep in. After all, it is human to err and teachers are human. A teacher is not a perfect human being, a veritable storehouse of knowledge, who never ever makes a mistake in life or in the class room. She is one who strives to be that, gets half way through in that direction and is always aware that there is a long way to go still.

But a teacher is imperatively a person who knows how to deal with the knowledge at her disposal in order to impart it as education to the students. Hours of preparation goes behind every lecture.

Now coming to Prof TJ Joseph, we must admit it was foolish on his part to use the word Mohammed in that particular context. But i am absolutely sure that he did not mean the Prophet. Why on earth should he take the trouble to offend the sensibilities of a community? He should know fully well what the consequences would be. The mistake he made was that when he chose the passage, he did not factor in the truth that there are certain elements in the community who are fanatical and who suffer from an intense sense of persecution mania. These people feel that all the world is out to insult Islam which is simply not true.

The professor was being naive. He thought , and rightfully so, that Mohammed is just a name, and that simple explanation was enough for him to use that name in that unfortunate passage he picked up from the books prescribed for reading in the syllabus. If he had used the name Joseph or Matthew or Paul or Alphonse(all Christian saints), or even Emmanuel(which is Christ’s name), this problem would not have snowballed into such a huge issue. In fact it would not have been an issue at all. No one would have noticed it, cos after all what’s in a name? That must have been his logic.

Believe me, sometimes a teacher’s logic, clouded by academic considerations alone, falls short of politically correctness. It does happen. I know it. Even if someone points this out, we tend to stick mulishly to our view. At that point of time, the mind thinks that it is ridiculous that a perfectly innocent statement should be so wrongly interpreted. In our foolishness, we think such ridiculous interpretations should not happen. This must have been how the professor’s mind worked. “If i’m asked, i can always say i didn’t mean the The Prophet”.

Needless to say, the easiest thing would have been to change the name. But the poor man did not think it important enough.

It is true that the question papers are submitted to the office and the Principal is the official approver of it. But it is simply not possible for the Principal to go through them. Nevertheless, when something like this happened, he should have owned up the responsibility and apolgised to the community for an unintentional offence, instead of washing his hands of the poor teacher and sacking him. What loyalty can the institution expect hereafter from its teachers again?

It is very obvious that the enquiry by the management was not a fair one. The simple logic is why should a teacher with an impeccable record of 20 odd years, who led a totally innocuous and noncontroversial life to date, to whom his job was all important indulge in the dangerous act of antagonising a community and thereby jeopardise his job, his safety and that of his family? He would NEVER do it. And the management knows it.

The management has come up with some atrocious statements:
The DTP operator had pointed it out to the teacher about the use of the forbidden name. Well, since when is a DTP operator to decide what a teacher should do? Of course, in this case the DTP operator was more worldly wise, but education is a degree different from worldly wisdom, and teachers, the dispensers of education sometimes tend to be idealistic and short on worldly wisdom. Society should be a little indulgent towards teachers. It would have been nice if it departed from its usual practice of treating this category of people as punching bags.

Secondly, the management has stated that it is willing to take back the professor if the Muslim community forgives him!!!! What does it mean by Muslim community? Isn’t the group of muslims who were among the first to donate blood to the victim of this terrorist act part of that Muslim community whose pardon the management is seeking? Let the management define term ‘muslim community’.

The Muslims do not need forgiven the Professor. Why should they, when they have not taken offence or have any grudge towards him? The management is doing a disservice to the community by identifying these lumpen, fanatic group as the representative face of the Muslim community which is as sane and secular as any other community in the state.

This appeasing attitude is most shameful. I would have expected the management to live and act by the principles they swear by – Christ’s principles. I wish the management of Newman college would go back to the Bible and find out how Jesus Christ the founder of Christianity and the Lord of love and forgiveness and compassion would have reacted in this situation.

The management has no mind of its own? It does not have its own sense of right and wrong? No discerning power? Does it need to take lessons on love and forgiveness and compassion from an external agency? Is this management which runs an educational institution so starved of values and a sense of fair play – and courage?

What a shame! What a terrible shame!


  1. Keeping aside all the debates, one thing is pretty clear. He brought it on himself. As someone who is supposed to instill knowledge and wisdom in his pupils it was an act of foolishness. Weather he did it deliberately or not is another thing but the whole thing is just pitiful. As a professor he must've been judicious and weighed his usages and words well.

  2. How easy it is to say - 'he brought it on himself'. I am sure when Jesus was crucified, the majority would have said the same - 'he brought it on himself!'. That is what the majority of Kerala is saying; that is what the Church is saying - 'he brought it on himself'. How I envy these smart people, who avoid the pitfalls and landslips!

    I follow your assumptions clearly, ma'am. The less said about the fanatic section of the Muslim community, the better. The liberal Muslim is silent; why should I incur the demons' wrath?

    The society has brought this shame on itself; the religions has brought this shame on themselves - that is, if they know what shame is.
    Only when man dares to throw away the crutches of religion and walk on his own with courage and love in his heart would such incidents come to an end. But I am not naive enough to believe that such a day will ever come. For man has never had faith in himself.

    My compliments, ma'am, for your courage to speak out.

  3. I agree fully with you KPJ. It was just lack of forethought and not foolishness.
    The deliberate attempt of mischief was done by the communalists by printing thousands of copies of a Bcom class test paper.
    If all question papers of all schools and Colleges need to be approved by the Church/Islamists/RSS then it is better to say goodbye to secularism.

  4. @scorpiogenius
    'As a professor he must've been judicious and weighed his usages and words well'.
    you are right. a prof must be judicious, weigh his words, be politicallt correct etc etc etc. But sometimes he too can make the mistake of not having his wits about him. he too can lose his bearings once in a career of 20 odd years. isn't he too human? that's the point i'm trying to make.

    @ balachandran, ccharakan, dious
    thanks. so glad you agree with and understand my view. when the going is tough, a teacher is always without a friend. that's out society. am truly grateful

  5. Ah...for a change I see a perspective that is genuine, bold and individualistic rather than join the "others' to hurl stones at that poor professor who is already bearing the brunt of an act he didn't foresee would snowball into such proportions! It's shocking to see such knee-jerk reaction from the management washing their hands of the case. Point well made!

  6. If the name used was Mammad or Krishnan or Yesudas no issue would have emerged, but how come a class test question became so widespread, there is some black sheep may be the DTP operator or some staff who took photo copy of question paper and given to some islam students of a different class and tried to spit communal venom.

    And whole Kerala Media be it TV channels or news paper never published what was real issue, if the question paper was earlier published then Muslims also will understand its not deliberate, just a foolish mistake done by a foolish teacher, here channels discussed this issue for weeks still I could not understand how was the prophet humiliated. They never disclosed what was content or it was qp for class test.

    Police also ignored many threats and intelligence reports now they are after every Muslim associated with this, but real persons are still not captured, about 100 people have been charged so court will set everyone free for want of evidence. This is a deliberate attempt by police or govt, to threat Musilms or to extract money from the business rich community & everyone charged or taken to custody means bribe to police.

    Such a shame happened in Kerala only because of irresponsible media and inept Govt. Now College authorities are playing Peelathose , another shame.

  7. The questions were meant for a class of just 32 students.How come they were printed in large quantities and then circulated among the mosques and other institutions? Even among the students,there must have been someone,who felt wounded.
    I have read stories of the romantic affairs between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.I never felt offended,rather I laughed at them.My faith and trust are not going to be offended by what someone writes about Jesus.Faith is not like a nose that falls down on sneezing.Then how come some people get offended by anything and every thing? There is extreme intolerance breeding.You just camouflaged it in a cover of smoke, with comments on your secular attitudes.

    Kindness and compassion are stories of the past.There is a new law and order on the way. I tried to see what was this question paper and could not find it after hours of search !The purpose has been served isn't it?
    I wonder what Jesus Christ himself would have done these days! He had also got angry and reacted at times."He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves".This was to the merchants who misused the temple of God.How would he react to those who destroy them?

  8. try this link. tells all quite clearly. the controversial question is highlighted and can be viewed.

    this helps only those who know malayalam.

  9. there are many people in the real world named 'Mohammed' who engage in criminal activities ranging from theft, rape and to the extend of terrorism. Why are their arms not being cut and thrown into the ditch? Aren't they who really malign the name of the prophet?

  10. Colleges like Newman think with their wallets. Bad headlines equal bad admission numbers. This hits their bottomlines.They would like to be out of the headlines, ASAP, and hence will refuse to reinstate T.J.Joseph, even if the entire Muslim population in town were to come out in support of Prof.Joseph. Kindness and compassion have little to do with the whole affair, unfortunately.

  11. Glad to read you on this issue..

    Wish religion could be brushed away.. else, how in the world can anyone justify the chopping off hands? nd now this sacking too?

    If we look around at our politicians, our leaders, aren't there enough reasons for each one of us to shout like the mad queen in the Alice in Wonderland story?

    Kerala is losing and it lost further when this tacher was sacked.

    Guess it is better to live in a non secular country. .at least one knows the rules...I shall never understand the Indian way of secularism..

  12. @ KPJ ma'm, I said in the beginning my argument was by 'keeping aside all the debates'. Not in any way trying to justify the heinous crime but just pointing to a Himalayan stupidity by a 'Professor'.

    Using the term Muhammad is no crime, but using it in a Q-paper when the Muhammad is directly conversing to 'God' makes a hell lot of difference. We know about the times we live in ma'm, and anyone with a sense of responsibility and awareness would think twice before being adventurous, especially when religion is such a flammable item to play with it.

  13. What a shame, what a terrible shame, as you say, madam!
    We are living in dangerous times.
    The other day, my brother-in-law, who is a retired physics professor, was telling me this incident. He is in the panel of experts now preparing textbooks for high school students in Kerala. The syllubus included a lesson about the pendulum and its use in clocks to measure time.
    They wrote the lesson describing how Galileo, while feeling bored with the proceedings at the Pisa Cathedrel where he had gone, was suddenly fascinated by the swinging movements of the chandeliers hanging high overhead from the ceiling.
    While observing the back and forth motions of these chandeliers swinging in the wind, Galileo noticed that, although the angle of the swinging movements changed over time, the time required for the pendulum to swing in one direction and then return to its original starting point appeared to remain constant.
    Excited, he went straight back to his laboratory and tested what he had noticed in the cathedrel by using a simple pendulum and found his observation to be true.
    Nowadays, the drafts of textbooks are sent to the Education Minister's office for political clearance. The Minister office was alarmed that the mention about something that had happened in a cathedral should find mention in a school textbook. Prompt came the direction to delete that part of the lesson.
    "Galileo invented the laws of pendulum in his laboratory. Why should you unnecessary bring in cathedrals and religions into a thing like that," asked the crisp note attached to the draft of the textbook returned to the panel the next day.

  14. അനവസരത്തിലെ ഔചിത്യബോധ്മാണ് ജോസഫ്നു പറ്റിയ അമളി. അതിനു കിട്ടിയ ‘ചെറിയ’ ശിക്ഷ വളരെ ക്രൂരമായി പോയി. പ്രതിബദ്ധത കാണിക്കേണ്ട KT കുഞ്ഞുമുഹമ്മടും കൂട്ടരും ‘മൌനം വിദ്വാനു ഭൂഷണം” ആയി ഇരിക്കുകയാണ്. സംഹാരതന്ടവമാടുന്ന മതതീവ്രവതികളെ സംരക്ഷിക്കുന്നവരെ തിരിച്ചറിയാന്‍ സാക്ഷാല്‍ ദൈവത്തിനു പോലും കഴിയുമെന്ന് തോന്നുന്നില്ല. ജോസെഫിനെ സംരക്ഷിക്കേണ്ട ഭീരുക്കളായ വെള്ളയനിഞ്ഞ കുഞ്ഞാടുകള്‍(മുട്ടനാടുകള്‍) വാതിലുകള്‍ മുന്‍പേ കൊട്ടിയടച്ച് നല്ല ക്രിസ്തനികളായി രണ്ടാം തവണയും മാമോദീസ മുങ്ങി, വിശ്വാസം ശക്തിപെടുത്തി . പോലീസും കൂടരും ശെരിക്കും ‘കള്ളനും പോലീസും’ കളിച്ചു ജയിച്ചു. എന്തൊക്കെ ആയാലും ചെകുത്താന്റെ ഒരു കണ്ണ് ജീവിതകാലം മുഴുവനും ജോസഫിന്റെ പിന്നാലെ ഉണ്ടാകും എന്നത് നിസംശയം. പുതിയ ഇരകളെ തേടിയുള്ള ചെകുതന്മാരുടെ പ്രയാണം തുടരട്ടെ….! അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ “കേരളം ഒരു ഭ്രാന്താലയം” എന്ന പദത്തിനു ഒരു അര്‍ത്തവുമില്ലാതെ പോകും. വാല്‍കഷ്ണം : പുതിയതായി ചോധ്യ് പേപ്പര്‍ തയ്യാറാക്കുന്ന അധ്യപഹന്മാരോടായി ഒരു വാക്ക്; ഇതോക്കെ ഉങ്കളുക്കു തേവയാണോ സാറെ…..!

  15. I may be in this post a little late.
    I find it a trifle difficult to think that the Professor did not sense that the name "Muhammed" may evoke insanity amongst the volatile Muslim sections.But I do discount any mischievous motives on the Professor. He could well have chosen any other name, knowing fairly well the psyche of these holy warriors.
    Definitely I'm not attributing malicious intent on the professor like M.F.Hussain who painted a nude Goddess like woman and named the painting "Saraswathi".That was outright mischief and now he is cooling his heels in Dubai.Again because of another bigoted group in the other faith.
    Now what harm can it cause the Prophet and his name if a question paper has been framed with his name? These "holy warriors" as they claim are so unsure about the Prophet's credentials that they feel even at the slightest jerk the icon would crumble. That is the depth of their spirituality and faith.
    In contrast the Church , as usual with them chose to supplicate to fanaticism and bigotry.
    What else can you expect from a bunch of over fed obese men in Golden Robes and paraphernalia that may shame even the most ostentatious of medieval Kings?

    God's own country they claim?The Gods have vanished from Kerala long before.

  16. Seven steps were occurred in whole issue when we view it in total. (1) The question was set. (2) The Prof's hand was cut off (3) The political and religious organizations responded. (4) Chief Minister VS passed a bad comment. (5) Another hand cut off occurred without any voice. (6) Prof. was removed from service and (7)SDPI won a few seats in the area.

    I am a person who was shocked for half an hour at work immediately after reading the hand cut off incident as it was done in the name of religion I chose in the life. I view Islam as the religion with the richness of ideals. In my view the insult to any community or leader is to be avoided.

    There is a common thought among Muslims in South Kerala that Muslims may be physically attacked by RSS any time and their believes are being attacked by some Christian groups and television channels. There are many Muslims who cannot tolerate any portrait in bad light on Islam. I have many Christian friends who cannot afford any portrait in bad light on their religion or denomination.

    It is a fact that most Malayali Muslims not only felt bad and hurt in reading the controversial question but also condemned the hand cut off of Prof. The popular organization IUML adopted peaceful way of protest only regarding the question paper. Most of the Muslims are against communal thought.


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