Nikki Haley shows she’s a good politician in regards to religion too

This week on The Remnant podcast, Jonah Goldberg, whose wife works for Nikki Haley, expounded at length about her skill as a politician. His point, which is legitimate, is that Haley is well liked by the broad mass of Trump-supporting Republicans (if not elite pro-Trump idealogues), as well as Trump-skeptical conservatives.

I’ve known of Nikki Haley since 2004, a few years after Bobby Jindal came onto to the national scene. Both are conservative Indian American Republicans elected as governors in the South. But there are differences between the two. While Haley can arguably “pass” as white, Jindal cannot (both are of Punjabi ethnicity). But a bigger difference has been their attitude toward religion: Jindal has worn his Christian conversion and faith on his sleeve, while Haley has been much more low-key. Throughout her career, Haley has admitted that the Sikh gurdwara remains a part of her life, despite her conversion to Methodist Christianity. Could you imagine Jindal saying such a thing about a Hindu temple?

The above is a video clip of Haley during a 2014 visit to India, where she visited the Golden Temple with her husband. When asked about her conversion to Christianity, she avers the sincerity of her belief. But Haley also speaks in an ecumenical language and seems to express the view that her choice of religion was in keeping with her culture as an American. Her turn to Christianity was not a denial of Sikhism, which she seems to see as grounded in India.

I can’t look into Haley’s heart, and to be frank her religious faith is not my business. But, I think I can say many people of subcontinental background tend to view converts to American Christianity as opportunists or somehow lacking in cultural pride and internal strength. American evangelical Protestant acquaintances would often mock Hinduism in front of me, despite the fact that I have a Muslim name and have been an atheist since I was a small child. To convert to Christianity is perceived by some to be conceding the point of that mockery.

And yet above Haley seems to be interpreting her conversion to Christianity as an expression of her alignment with the Dharma of the land in which she grew up, the United States. You may agree or disagree with her, but her emotional expression above certainly does make it seem that she retains a deep fondness for her Sikh upbringing.

28 thoughts on “Nikki Haley shows she’s a good politician in regards to religion too”


    As you can guess, I have been a fan of Nikki Haley since her time in the South Carolina House of Representatives. I think she is authentic. She has always been respectful of Sikhism, Hinduism, eastern philosophy, India and Asia. I think her faith is authentic. Many have a personal transformation experience with Jesus, including non Christians. Jesus has a very special place in all our hearts.

    There has always been a large contrast between her and Jindal. If McCain [someone else I have a huge amount of respect for] had selected her in 2008, he might have become President.

    I do take offense to “I think I can say many people of subcontinental background tend to view converts to American Christianity as opportunists or somehow lacking in cultural pride and internal strength.” [Not to Razib, but to the idea of opportunism.] People in my own extended family have had spiritual experiences with Jesus that caused them to convert. There is nothing wrong with becoming Christian. Someone can become Christian while still being very respectful of their mother faith and all faiths. In practice many Hindus who become Christian become a type of Hindu Christian. [or Buddhist Christian, Jain Christian, Sikh Christian etc.] Christian Hindu weddings are also common. And they too remain accepted among Hindus and remain part of Hindu communities. This is my observation. What riles people is in-authenticity.

    This is a beautiful clip. Everyone should go to the Golden Temple. It is life altering.

  2. american/evangelical Christian pressure tactics during election times or for electoral offices is thousand times more than ‘Hindu nationalists’ in India ever do. Christian evangelical political lobby also has leftists and Indian Christian organizations as allies in tarnishing Hindus or Hinduism when it comes to representative democracy and positions of power. While christian evangelist pressure cuts across both Republican and democratic parties, in India Hindu nationalists appeal gets diffused with caste , tribal and other factors

  3. VijayVan, there is a big difference between India and America.

    In America post modernists, liberals, leftists, progressives, secularists, communists viciously attack and try to destroy evangelicals. Therefore it makes more sense for American Hindus to ally with evangelicals on a variety of political issues.

    In India post modernists, liberals, leftists, progressives, secularists, communists strongly and blindly support American evangelicals in a completely irrational way. One parallel might be the way many supposedly normal Europeans and American “pro peace” types use to back Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2005 against the government of Iraq and Iraqi Army.

    In India the Syriac and St Thomas Christians tend to be allied with Hinduttva, Sufis, twelvers and sixers against foreign evangelical Christians. Other Christians (Catholics, Anglicans, non evangelical protestants) are in between.

    Some foreign evangelical organizations use desperately needed economic assistance, strong arm tactics and coercion to convert very poor and socially isolated Hindus in India. This leads to resentment. Including from other Indian Christian organizations whose members are converting into evangelicals. Which is why Indian relations between evangelicals and non evangelical Christians are fraught with tension. In India evangelicals use tactics American evangelicals would never dream of using inside the US. Including purposeful intentional propaganda that mocks and tries to depict other Christian orders and Hindus as evil.

    Hinduttva generally doesn’t have an issue with old Indian Christian organizations that do not use coercion to convert poor people. Converting middle class and upper middle class Hindus is fair game.

    Hinduttva generally sees Christians as a Darshana inside Hinduism. Hinduttva people often pray at churches and often have a picture of Jesus in their prayer alters. However they like both Jesus and Krishna and don’t want to choose between them.

  4. As a Jew, Haley’s support for Israel at Hades on First Avenue, has been heart warming. She is way up on my list of winter book favorites for President in the 20s.

    1. Pro-Israel-ness comes fairly naturally to Indians (and Indian-Americans). So I don’t see that as her plus point, but more of an inherited cultural attitude (perhaps reinforced by her Republicanism).

      The point about her ecumenicism may be valid though, though I know v little of American politicians to conclude either way. Perhaps the tight-knit nature of Sikhism also has a part to play in it.

      Jatt (rural land-owning) Sikhs historically formed the vanguard of Sikhism among the laity and their cultural loyalty to Sikhism would go deeper than a Punjabi Hindu baniya’s (Jindal) to Hinduism. Maybe I am being too caste-deterministic and I oughtn’t be. But there is non-zero correlation here which I thought I’d comment on.

      As a control are there any South Indian Hindus (esp Brahmins) of note in US politics? If so, I’d go out on a limb to predict that they’d have a higher chance of averring their Hinduness.

      1. I guess Gujarati Vaishnava baniyas are quite outwardly Hindu as well but don’t know if there’s any politician of note from that community in the US.

        I remember when I lived in Anand in Gujarat, which is sort of India’s NRI capital, there was a huge presence of devout Swaminarayan folks from the US.

        Neel Kashkari is quite religious too (at least as per Wikipedia).

        1. Neel Kashkari is extremely impressive. I am a huge fan. If he were not running against a popular governor he would have been the governor of California.

      2. You are correct on the hindu baniya vs sikh jat thing. But i would say 47 and events of the 70s and 80s have had their effects that it has strengthened their bonds to hinduism. On the S Indian Brahmin thing i disagree, its 50-50 since American S-Indian brahmin could be as “woke” as their dravidan counterparts on issue of hinduism, dalits, and host of other left issues. So i wont be surprised if they take the Bobby route.

        1. // Bobby route //

          I thought Bobby was a far right evangelical Christian. Even performed an exorcism or something once. How is that woke?

          Or you mean just the propensity to diss Hinduism (whatever the causal need for it – Communism, Christian view of Hindus as devil worshippers etc)?

          My view of S Indian Brahmins is heavily formed by dealing with them in the UK and India. They are all most orthoprax of all Hindus I know. Maybe generalization to US is bad…

          1. The latter. Also as i said its events post 70s and 80s which strengthened their bond to Hinduism, so its totally probable that punjabi hindus who had migrated to USA before that would have lesser “loyalty” . You see that in Bollywood as well where the Kapoors/Roshans who moved to Mumbai long back are of the same stock but the latter Punjabis like Akshay Kumar /Devgan et all are a bit sympathetic to Hindu right.

      3. Jindal is from malerkotla, the only Muslim majority tehsil in Indian Punjab. Hindu life in that town would be atypical.

        Two other Hindu American politicians. Rohit khanna, rep from silicon valley, is Punjabi hindu. Raj Krishnamoorthy, Illinois friend of Barack, is tambram.

        Lots of Punjabi politicians in North America, going back to our political granddaddy, Dalip Singh Saund. Any reasons why?

        1. Ethnicity matters in how “Hindu” a person is ready to convert to forward his political career in USA.

    2. Walter, in recent months some American Hindus have begun to be accused of a lack of patriotism towards America, Islamophobia and supporting Nazi oppression of the weak in India. Much the way Jewish Americans are with respect to Israel.

      Please see the article referenced at the top of the second edit of:

      While American Jews are use to this type of despicable treatment, this is new for Hindu Americans and Buddhist Americans. What if anything can be done about it?

      Notice that in anti Israeli propaganda, increasingly two non Jews are featured . . . Narendra Modi (showed first) and Trump (showed second). In the minds of many post modernists; Jews, Israel, Hindus, Buddhists and India are all linked at the hip and are the greatest evil in the world. Although they will likely soon be joined by ex muslims, atheist muslims, Sufis, Shiites, liberal Sunnis.

    3. Haley was the least pro-Palestinian UN Ambassador ever, just as this administration has really thrown Palestine under the bus.

      Luckily you don’t speak for all Jews. Perhaps just for hard-core Zionists who want to perpetuate the Occupation.

      1. Kabir, most Indians and Indian Americans are very pro Israel. This is true of Indian muslims too. Many muslim minorities, ex muslims, atheist muslims are also pro Israel. They see Israel as their natural ally in the world that is out to get them. And they are not wrong in that.

        Just because someone is Israel’s best friend does not mean they can’t also be Palestine’s best friend. I think we should be both. Everyone wins that way.

        1. No. You cannot support the Occupation while also being “Palestine’s best friend”. This administration has defunded UNRWA and moved the embassy to an Occupied and disputed city.

          I’m not interested in a repetition of your pro-Israel talking points, so let’s end this discussion here.

          1. Kabir someone can be Best Friends Forever or BFF of Palestine and Israel without supporting the occupation. Bhai, we need to free our minds to new possibilities. 🙂

            “This administration has defunded UNRWA and moved the embassy to an Occupied and disputed city” I oppose both. I think so did the Modi government.


          2. There are lots of Jews who don’t support the Occupation.

            It is impossible to be “BFF”( a very stupid term frankly) of Palestine if you are OK with the fact that their land is continuously being stolen by the Israeli state.

            Haley and the Trump administration took a “Israel can do no wrong” approach, which is certainly not going to contribute to fixing the situation.

  5. “Jindal has worn his Christian conversion and faith on his sleeve, while Haley has been much more low-key”
    “Her turn to Christianity was not a denial of Sikhism, which she seems to see as grounded in India.”
    “You may agree or disagree with her, but her emotional expression above certainly does make it seem that she retains a deep fondness for her Sikh upbringing.”

    I agree that Haley probably didnt’ go as far as Bobby but to me she still tried the same trick. She did identify herself as “white” in her voter registration. To me her conversion to Christianity as well trying to say good things about her former faith is no less opportunistic( ok probably less than Bobby). Its a similar trick which i see in India too where movie actors and other public figure do it all the time. Actor say dumb shit they are “Hindu-Muslim” not to anger even a small section of their fans. Bobby went the whole hog because he didn’t want anything left to chance. And as you have correctly noticed his skin color didn’t help him so had to. Nikky was low key because she didn’t have to, or else i suspect she would have.

    ” I think I can say many people of subcontinental background tend to view converts to American Christianity as opportunists or somehow lacking in cultural pride and internal strength”

    I think the ethnicity of the person is also needed to be considered. Regions in India (South , Bengal, N-East) there is a general understanding considering there is already a high/visible population of Christians that its OK. Its like their least favorite child converted. You will not see much backlash if a Arunachal hindu american convert for example. Thats the reason hindu desis have little interest of what religion Kamala Harris is. But if a Gujarati, Marathi, UP wala converts it will be seen as sedition. Outside of that this whole “true” religion business doesn’t necessarily worry them.

    “And yet above Haley seems to be interpreting her conversion to Christianity as an expression of her alignment with the Dharma of the land in which she grew up, the United States.”

    I have noticed this more and more and also in NON hindu/buddhist/dharmic faith subcontinent folks and i remarked about it some days back. There is a sort of implied acceptability among them that India really “belongs” to these faith just like America “belongs” to Protestantism and more broadly Christianity. Thats a strange phenomena and not clearly measurable. Its like how popular culture is intermixed with the dominant faith its difficult to really tell whats “Indian” and what;s “Dharmic”

    1. “Actor say dumb shit they are “Hindu-Muslim””
      Hindus say this stuff all the time. It is common for Hindus to claim that they are Christian, Jewish, Zorastrian, Tao and every other religion. It is called Sarva Dharma. Most Hindus do some variation of this, not only Gandhiji. For Hindus this is natural and normal. Hindus don’t understand how this sounds to non Hindus. Hindus don’t understand the concept of exclusive faith. I mean, why can’t I be ever religion and engage in daily religious fluidity? This is not a joke . . . heck I have always thought this way. But I have deeply studied almost every religion. Most Hindus who say they belong to or are connected to all religions know almost nothing about the religions they claim affinity too.

      Haley is free to convert. If she converts and stays connected to Sikhism . . . then she loses nothing and only gains from a Hindu/Sikh perspective.

      I love authentic Christians who speak from their own spiritual experience. They are vastly preferred to inauthentic people from every other religion. Haley strikes me as authentic.

      My issue with Jindal is authenticity and lack of courage. If Jindal were a good and true Christian with sterling character then I would support him too.

  6. Quite tangential (but possibly interesting) point: for non-Indian readers who may not be familiar, may be I should mention that lots of Sikhs in North America (particularly Canada) are anti-India and their brethren in India violently agitated for their separate Sikh country called Khalistan:

    Sikhs shot dead former Indian PM Indira Gandhi in 1984, because she had ordered a storming of their holiest shrine, the Golden Temple Razib referenced, to kill off a terrorist group holed up inside. They suffered a pogrom by Hindus (about 3,000 to 8,000 killed) as a result:

    A flight from Montreal flying to India was blown up by Sikh terrorists as a revenge for the riots, resulting in 329 deaths in 1985.

    While the movement has largely withered away, Canada is still a hotbed for some of the leftover extremist Sikh groups.

    Anyway, Haley (née Randhawa), was born in the early 70s in the US and her parents seemed to have moved to Canada from Punjab in the 60s, before the Khalistani movement took off.

    1. I am thinking of writing about this at some point. Would you be willing to write an article on this subject? Could you break down the various different strands of Sikhism and their relationship with each other?

      Most Indian Sikhs (about 92% of Sikhs are Indian) are very patriotic and feel part of the larger Sanathan Dharma extended family. This is both good and bad. Bad because Indians are genuinely believe that no external force can militarily threaten India. Indians also believe that terrorists can’t seriously threaten India. The belief is not based on normal rational thinking. Long ago India’s great hero Guru Gobind Singh did a Puja with Kashi brahmins where the divine mother of the cosmos made Guru Gobind Singh the protector of Hindustan and all the people and philosophies of Hind. [Hindus so to speak.] As a result, no matter what, Sikhs will protect India. Sikhs will never let harm come to Bharat. Bharatiyas are deeply reliant and dependent on Sikhs. Or so goes the common belief. Sikhs are massively over represented in the senior cadre and leadership of the Indian armed forces. In India many non Sikhs attend Gurudhwaras. Sometimes a majority of attendees are non Sikhs.

      However this isn’t as true outside India. In particular in Canada where many Sikhs openly ally with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE and Islamists. UK Sikhs are more pro Indian than Canadian Sikhs but also retain a Khalistani element. US Sikhs are closer to Indian Sikhs. Many attendees to US gurudwaras are Hindus. Although there remains a Khalistani minority in America too.

      In the US there are tens of thousands of non Deshi Sikhs inspired by Yogi Bhajan (maybe more). Many of them are my friends. They are a powerful political and social force inside the US.

  7. Very moving..

    Nikki Haley – Kamala Harris. proud brown women.. amazing what Indian-Americans have managed to do in the US..

    Also Elizabeth Warren’s son-in-law is certainly a Desi-American of some sort; her daughter’s name is Amelia Warren Tyagi.

    the “Indian” ancestry comes full way for the Warren clan and I must say my “browndar” really is fantastic loll

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