Derek O' Brien is celebrity turned politician in India. Recently in a TV debate on a National TV channel he was recorded saying that he was a Christian first, before that an Indian. (Watch the video linked, for the actual speech.)

The link to the video: Derek O' Brien on National TV (youtube 20 seconds)

Due to lack of explicit punctuation in English while being spoken, IMO, his statement can be deciphered to mean two quite different things. One of them paints the celeb communal and the other a patriot!

The possible meanings, IMO:

  1. That he considers his faith and its interests to be above the nation and her interests!
  2. That he considers his faith to be of great importance to him, but before it(the faith), he puts the nation and her interests.

What he actually meant is of great controversy, because, if he did indeed mean the first thing, he was being communal and that is a taboo in India (a secular nation by constitution), as great as being a racist is in the US.

What in your opinion did he actually mean and why?

  • 1
    Not ambiguous. He says he's first a Christian (and so not first an Indian, so his religion comes before his nationality). To read it otherwise would imply that he left out words or is speaking in an inarticulate manner 'first X, but before that Y' is inconsistent thinking).
    – Mitch
    Apr 29 '14 at 0:29

Given that if something is first, by definition nothing can come before that, and that the idiomatic construction is always "I am first a ___, before ___," I would assume that his "that" was just a misstatement (it happens all the time on live TV), and he puts his religion before his nationality.

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