Browncast Ep 41: An Indian Muslim on Maharajah Modi

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We speak to Jahanara, a Cambridge student who has extensive experience with the Delhi education system and who happens to be an Indian Muslim.

Image result for maharaja modi

I’m joined by MJ & LV (this is part 2 of Episode 38; I plan to do part 3 with Kushal of Carvaka) as we discuss the ramifications for India; it was a balanced podcast in the sense I felt that we respected all viewpoints and respectfully disagreed but enjoyed listening to one another.

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post; Jahanara is the “ideal Indian Muslim” by Indian standards. I don’t want to delve into her life details, to protect her privacy, but I can’t think of a prouder or more assimilated Indian. But it seems to me that her “Muslimness” is now almost being foisted on her; making her an incidental Muslim.

I get from the podcast that Indian Muslims, who are a multiplicity, are increasingly becoming a minority who have to prove their “Indianess.”

But listen to the podcast and make your own views. I did take LV & MJ to task for their “Hindu privilege”; a bit like white privilege, it’s so invisible in India that once can take it for granted.

I also called LV a Left-Liberal Hindu, her Hinduism isn’t necessarily important to her, but becomes an issue when she feels it’s being hijacked by Rightist forces.

So it was an interesting back and forth and as always I try to keep my views fluid so that the podcast can reflect the right balance of views. I did point out that Modi, in terms of his personal austerity and immense work ethic, is an enviable leader. He has no progeny to leave office to and no dynastic politics at work; he is all about the country. Incidentally Imran may be the same as I can’t see any of his three children succeeding him in terms of PTI.

I also feel that if India is heading towards the same type of governance as Pakistan (God forbid) then the idea that Hinduism is somehow manifestly superior to Islam is a bit weak. I do sense Indians want to keep the tagline of secular, liberal democracy but with overtly Hindu characteristics, which is fine albeit majoritarian.

MJ, as per usual, is off to good and great things; giving a speech today on Brexit and Dharma with Hindo Sengupta.

We would definitely appreciate more positive reviews. Many of you listen to us, but don’t leave any reviews!

48 thoughts on “Browncast Ep 41: An Indian Muslim on Maharajah Modi”

  1. Very important to note that when Hindus talk about “concessions to Muslims”, they always ignore that there also exists “concessions to Hindus”, that far outweigh the former.

    These Hindus also don’t advocate for complete secularism where all religious communities live under the same law. They just want the Muslim concessions to be eliminated, while increasing Hindu concessions.

  2. Regarding India’s desire for a “strongman” leader, this is an accurate observation. A global Pew survey found India had the HIGHEST desire for an autocratic leader (ahead of all African, Middle-East, Russia, Asian countries).

    This is cultural, as many Hindus have internalized the British-colonial teaching of Hindus being an effeminate, weak, passive people, subjugated first by Muslims, then by the British, and in the modern-period by the Western-informed liberalism of Congress.

    Modi and his right-wing chauvinism are seen as a watershed moment for “asserting Hindu identity” and no longer being “pushovers to minorities and foreign rivals”. A geopolitical example of the dangers in overcompensating.

    1. I’m not a big fan of this sort of armchair psychoanalysis, particularly when it pertains to whole nations. Most Indians of my generation grew up in a liberal democratic society where political pluralism exists side by side with stinking squalor, intractable poverty and tepid growth. We also grew up with an example to the East of China, where a one-party dictatorship produced amazing changes in material conditions and national status without paying any heed to liberal democratic values.

      An argument that is often tendered in favor of liberal democracy is that it is the most conducive system for general prosperity. Perhaps we just no longer believe a centralized authoritarian state is incapable of producing prosperity – of course, I suspect many more would believe it if the BJP stopped doing idiotic things like demonetization.

        1. A slow build-up to the authoritarian state over years is probably easier to sell than suspending the Constitution overnight.

        2. Indira liked to come to Yugoslavia (i.e. Serbia) and she did very often. She liked Serbian Gypsy music. During her visits, there was always assigned a young Aryan like lieutenant to be on her full service as she was pleased.

      1. I think parliamentary democracy is the best option for India, but yeah, the old dogma that there’s an economically utilitarian benefit to democracy is false and definitely outmoded. Democracy can still be good though!

    2. Tbh this is in the “not even wrong” range as far as accuracy. You honestly sound a bit like the Hindutva guys who rant about Abrahamic conspiracies and ignore much more obvious and proximate causes for stuff.

      Indians are sympathetically predisposed to autocracies because they think it can cut through the red tape and grow the economy and make the trains run on time. China, which India is often unfairly compared to, influences this perception.

      Indians have a sort of underpants gnomes logic to this (Appoint a Caesar —> ??? —> Profit) and are unaware of the many issues that autocratic regimes possess. Probably because we’ve been such a successful democracy for so long!

  3. regarding Jahanara’s story about something asking if she was muslim and her fear, my main question tho is lots of ppl in india who are muslim are ‘visible’ as muslims due to their dress. do these people fear? it might simply have been the fact she didn’t “look” muslim?

    there are cases in parts of europe when jewish men are advised not to wear their kippah in certain neighborhoods. that’s a good signal of the base level of hostility.

    1. Even in Germany the Jewish leader advises Jews not to wear kippa in public
      German Jews warned not to wear kippas after rise in anti-Semitism

      The jewish hatred in the west is partly fueled by Islamic migration over the past few decades. Islamic hatred of Jews is visceral and overt. The left-liberal mollycoddling of Muslims and Islamic extremism tolerates anti semitism of the immigrant muslims. This feeds into western antisemetic forces driven underground after 2nd world war.
      The Labour Party is Britain is case in point. Even Germany’s no-questions-asked taking up of millions of Muslim immigrants belongs to the same category.

      This narrative actually belongs to Shafiq’s post on how liberal order was broken by Islam

  4. Vidhi made a very good point early on in the podcast that Hinduism is not Hindutva and she resents the appropriation of her religious beliefs in the service of a political ideology. It is very scary that so many Indians are willing to let politicians pervert their religion into an ideology which “otherizes” minorities.

    Similarly, Islam is not Islamism. Pakistan’s experience has shown us how politicians have increasingly ceded ground to hard-line interpretations of the religion, to the detriment of the country. It would be very sad if India were to go down that road.

    1. Hindutva is a political project that seeks to restore/sustain Indic heritage & civilization. Now such a project should not be confused with Hinduism as a religious practice & philosophy. I wonder why a lot of those upset with Gau Rakshak nuisances really feel the need to mark a distinction between their faith Hinduism & Hindutva as political/cultural project.

      I don’t believe any one (religious leader or Pundit or even RSS) is making the claim that Gau Rakshaks or bigoted persecution is Hinduism. I understand when Muslims say this, as their co-religionists (extremist mullahs, terror organizations) making the claim that their brand is true Islam, quoting from the scripture, which is not really the case with Hindus of any strain.

      Also unsure why my other comment regarding Citizenship Amendment Bill was deleted, as the participants clearly misrepresented facts, calling it akin to a Muslim ban, which is not the case. I was only seeking to inform those who may have been misled by the comments in the podcast discussion.

      1. I always wanted to ask SA mohammedans these questions:

        1. Why do you oppose uniform civil code? You cry about secularism, all secular countries have uniform civil codes. Don’t you think it’s weird for the law to be asking a person’s religion before going to a trial?

        2. Why not let the idol worshippers/kuffars build yet another temple (with many more idols) in Ayodhya? (might give you all some brownie points too)

        3. Why do you think Hindus only have issues with Muslims and a few times with Xtians and none whatsoever with Sikhs, Budhists, Jains?

        4. Views about kashmir? Bangladesh and Pakistan are already torn outta #DharmaSthan, do you support one more partition?

        5. Why are your folks inclining towards salafi, saudi funded extreme forms rather than sufi, mystic forms?

        6. How many of you actually know a little bit about MahaBharatham (the story of India)? I am not asking Raamayanam!

        1. 1.) Indian law favors Hindus in a lot of ways (reservation, beef-bans, grants promoting Hinduism, citizenship, etc). One of the few perks Muslims enjoy is some autonomy via civil-law. When Hindus are ready to give up their perks, Muslims will be more amenable to do the same.

          2.) Muslims oppose building a temple on Babri for the same reason you would be opposed to me knocking down your house and building my home over it.

          3.) Hindus have a bloody history with Buddhists before Muslim arrival in India, and in modern-times in Sri-Lanka, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. Muslims are the largest minority so deal with the most shit. Also, Hindus still drinking British kool-aid about Muslims being the “true-enemy”.

          4.) Kashmir should decide its own fate (be independent, join Pakistan, whatever), Jammu and Ladakh want to stay with India, so should stay with India.

          5.) A structured, literal, reading of Islam lends itself to Salafism. I personally think its inevitable when Muslims take Islam too seriously.

          6.) Most SA Muslims know nothing about ancient India and don’t care to learn. Hindus know more by default, but still not very much.

          1. salafism is mostly appealing to those who aren’t that religious/religious informed, and want to become so. it’s a pretty simple and easy form of islam to understand, is it is notionally rationalism and does away with a lot of the accumulated tradition.

            it appeals less to people who are well-versed in traditional islam. this is clear in my family, as the only ppl who go ‘full salafi’ started out secular and very ignorant of islam. in contrast, those trained to be ulems are pretty vanilla hanafi sunni (which is still very conservative orthopraxically anyway).

            tl;dr, salafism is optimized to be cliffnotes on islam.

          2. Indian law favors Hindus in a lot of ways (reservation, beef-bans, grants promoting Hinduism, citizenship, etc).

            What the f*** are you talking about?

            Ever heard of the “Haj subsidy”? Grants promoting Hinduism, my ass! (To be accurate, yours.)

        2. I’ve often wanted to answer questions from a complete idiot. We’re all about achieving our dreams here.

          1) why should everyone follow the same rules on marriage and inheritance (which is what Indian personal law covers). Catholics believe marriage is an irrevocable holy sacrament. Muslims believe it is an reversible agreement between two people. Mormons — don’t even ask. Why must we all be uniform in our family life?

          (As an aside, a paranoia about anglo-muhammadan common law is a sure marker of an idiot).

          2) when terrorists destroyed the world trade center, the Americans rebuilt it. When terrorists destroyed the Babri masjid, Indians cowered in fear of the terrorists. I hate terrorists. Rebuild the Babri masjid, but bigger.

          3). Talk to a Canadian Sikh about the Hindu dominated Indian state –jagmeet has nothing nice to say. Talk to a sinhala Buddhist about Tamil
          Hindus. Indian muslims give Hindus wet sloppy kisses compared to these guys.

          4)I support reunification of akhand Bharat. India needs to be fifty percent Muslim.

          5) Sufis? You mean the bigots that demanded Asiya bibi die? If you think Sufis are peaceful, you are living up to your image, described in the first sentence of this comment.

          6)nothing. The great thing about Pakistan is that it relieves us of the obligations of learning about a second dull culture. If you are brown and have time on your hands, read Tolstoy, Proust, or Sophocles – western culture, superior to everything brown since 1857.

    2. If there is a moulded vessel in your home and you find that the rice, grains, sugar you stored in it always spoils do you blame the contents or clean-up/throw the vessel?

      Saying Hinduism is not Hindutva or Islam is not Islamism only helps us perpetuate these justifications further. Caste within Hinduism (or is that Hindutva?) is another example. Finding social and even economic justification for its existence and coining terms for it has led to its carry-over into this century.

    “This 250 tweet thread, cataloguing documented attacks, lynchings, attempted lynchings by Muslims on Hindus (Dalits, non-Dalits) largely ignored by the media, ENDS today.

    The strongest rebuttal to selectivity and scaremongering was given on May 23.”

    To counter baseless selective fearmongering, I request the sane-minded people here to go through the twitter thread above.

    There are massive data reportage problems, and it is irresponsible to claim a “minorities are in danger narrative” in the face of such massive uncertainty.

    PS: I thought Zack had the most reasonable viewpoints here

    1. How is this topic in any manner related to what I have linked?

      You clearly have some issues with comprehension and logic

      1. INDTHINGS lives in a make-believe world (he made it himself, all by his own brain) where Indians were pummeled by Aryans, who cast an oppressive shadow on this land for 2 millenia before peace-loving Muslims graced this benighted land with a golden millenium of benevolent rule where the despised untouchables were welcomed into the comforting arms of the Islamic faith after which sneaky British traders stole the Muslim rulers’ patrimony and filled Hindus’ minds with unadulterated poison about Islam because of which the innocent peace-loving Muslims had to break the country in two to escape the clutches of evil Brahmins and Banias who continue to exercise malevolent oppression over the remainder of their brethren.


        1. I actually feel that the veracity of popular narratives matter far less than their appeal as stories. Something in our brain is attracted to redeeming, attractive narratives even if not fully true. I bet that had India actually become Muslim majority, this would have been pretty much the understanding the population converged upon. It would allow appropriation of all the cumulative cultural output, expunge the humiliation of being repeatedly conquered by Central Asians and also preempt modernity by emphasizing equality (albeit one within the parameters of religious law).

          Its not a bad story, ultimately a triumph of the weak (via Islam).

          This narrative though, does isolate Pakistan from India, for obvious reasons. But the consequences of this isolation are really not that grave.

          1. Agreed. Ultimately, both the models of Indian history, the nationalist and the secularist-socialist, run aground in some places. They both have some truth to them, but their main virtue is that they make people feel good.

            And they both converge on the biggest nonsense of all, the farcical claim that the British impoverished India (in reality there was a likely minor net-negative economic impact, but it’s r*tarded to make the claims which Tharoor does.)

          2. I would actually go further. I dont think one can build coherent historical narratives beyond a multi decade framework, two centuries max. The idea of a 2000 year old continuity (oppressive, magnificent or otherwise) makes no sense.

          1. @HM Brough

            Funnily enough, the “nationalist” model is the secular-socialist model itself.

            Given the precariousness of Independent India post 1947, our intellectuals chose best to go with the Ganga-Jamuna-Tehzeeb model as a way of integrating all the minorities within a majority Hindu nation. This was, of course, egregious in its contortions of history.

            The major contrarians to this strain were men like RC Majumdar and Jadunath Sarkar (who are constantly villified as communal, despite their first-rate work with primary sources).

          2. Vikram,

            Yeah I was being sarcastic with my praise, HM’s comment is dumb. Islamic rule wasn’t benevolent either, and nobody (except HM our resident genius) has said it was.

            I’m also not sure how accurate “Aryan oppression” is. Objectively looking back at it, we could perhaps say their conquest and caste-system was oppressive, though if actual Indians living in that environment at the time didn’t view it as oppressive, are we just back-projecting our modern biases?

          3. Considering the fact that the preeminent Vedic deity Indra (cognate to Thunar/Thor, Zeus, Jupiter) is reduced to a lusty, dependent and greedy ‘king of heaven’ after the Vedas, I am quite skeptical of the 2000 years of oppression perspective.

            OTOH, while reading Mexican history I was struck by how similar the culture and social realities were to the India of today. Seemed very reasonable to see the gachupines/peninsulares/criollos as the Hindu upper castes, mesitzos as the peasant/artisan/middle castes and the indios as Dalits.

        2. Should also include how the evil Hindus destroyed other Hindu temples and persecuted and massacred Buddhists!

  6. Considering the fact that the preeminent Vedic deity Indra (cognate to Thunar/Thor, Zeus, Jupiter) is reduced to a lusty, dependent and greedy ‘king of heaven’ after the Vedas, I am quite skeptical of the 2000 years of oppression perspective.

    like greece enslaving her capture, the culture brahmins owes more to IVC in deep ways than to the indo-aryans of the steppe.

    1. The question is whether this transition/takeover/turnaround starts during the Vedic period or after it.

      1. I think you already see that transition by the time of the early principal Upanishads, predating or contemporary with Buddhism.

  7. Just started listening to the podcast.

    Does anyone have polling on how many muslims voted for the BJP?

    This suggests that 26% of muslims support the BJP and 56% oppose the BJP. 18% refuse to state. {My suspicion is that most of these 18% back the BJP}

    Review the state by state muslim vote breakdown clubbing Congress + Congress Allies + Left together. Most of the rest are BJP or likely to ally with BJP (for example BSP):
    UP Congress + Allies + Left = 26%
    Telangala ” = 65%
    West Bengal ” = 15%
    Rajasthan ” = 57%
    Maharashtra ” = 67%
    Kerela ” = 78%
    Karnataka ” = 69%
    Gujarat ” = 72%
    Bihar ” = 72%
    Assam ” = 99%

    I don’t know the sample sizes or how representative the state level data is.

    I would also be curious about the breakdown of muslim Indians by Shiite, Sufi, liberal, agnostic/atheist, woman, conservative Sunnis.


    ——Among districts with 20% to 40% muslim voters the BJP won 43.8% (+ 8.1% from 2014)
    ——Among districts with 10% to 20% muslim voters the BJP won 39.2% (+ 5.3% from 2014)
    ——Among districts with less than 10% muslim voters the BJP won 34.9% (+ 5.0% from 2014)

    The BJP does best in districts with large numbers of muslim voters. And does worst in districts with few muslim voters.

    Why is this?

  9. Done listening. Some questions for Jahanara, Vidhi, Zach and MJ:
    —what is “secularism”?
    —what is “Hinduism”?
    —what is “Indian Islam” (or Bharatiya Islam or Swadeshi Islam or Hindu Islam)?
    —what is Islam?
    —what are your perspectives on “Sarva Dharma Sama Bhaava Sarva Shresht”
    —Is part of the critique of the RSS because of their atheistic interpretation of Hinduism?
    —Is part of the critique of the RSS because of their use of terms such as “Hindu Muslims” and “Hindu Christians”?

    I don’t understand how anyone might think that India can be majoritarian. India has over a thousand religions. Most of them are loosely labelled “Hindu”–which in turn can be further divided into 10 families of religions. Many Hindu religions are closer to Sikhism than hundreds of Hindu religions. Many Hindu religions are closer to Buddhism than hundreds of Hindu religions. Many Hindu religions are closer to Jainism than hundreds of Hindu religions. Many Hindu religions are closer to Sufism than hundreds of Hindu religions. India only has minorities. By far the largest religion in India is likely conservative Sunni Islam. Note that I haven’t seen any good data breaking down Indian muslims by type and sect and am guessing that many Indian muslims are conservative Sunnis.

    In terms of Islam and Delhi, I have some questions:
    —How do muslims connected to Nizamuddin Dargah and Sarmad Kashani view Modi?
    —How do Delhi Shia view Modi?
    —How do Delhi female muslims view Modi?

    My sense is that Modi and the BJP have many muslim supporters in UP (Sufis and Shia), Rajasthan (Ajmer), West Bengal, Telangala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat.

    Noted the strong showing of the Congress, Congress allies and left among muslims in Gujarat and Karnatika. But then all politics are local.

      1. Some additional questions if it’s alright:

        1. Currently, almost all major Hindu temples are under Govt. control. The revenue from these temples goes to the Govt. coffers and is spent on the general public as decided by the Govt. Would they consider this a blot on Indian secularism?
        2. The 93rd amendment to the Indian constitution brought by the Congress led UPA government puts Minority managed educational institutions on a higher pedestal by insulating them from any form of Government control. Even private, unaided Hindu institutions are not for example, free from obligations such as freeing up 25% of their seats (RTE act). Would the panelists consider this act of the Congress to be a ‘communal’ act?
        3. If they answer in the affirmative to either if these questions, what explains the fact that these facts hardly come up in discussions of Indian secularism? That they hardly trouble Indian liberals?

          1. Great, will have a listen. Thanks. Would also be interested in knowing the opinions of the participants in similar future discussions on these topics.

  10. Friend, the contents of your comment form the very core of the debate we seem to be having (and the elephant in the room where the podcast was conducted).

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