Hindutva need a Tariq Ramadan (without the rape allegations!)

Before his career was destroyed by multiple allegations of rape and sexual abuse, the philosopher and Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan was an intellectual superstar who spanned the world of conservative Islam and Western academia. If you read a book like Western Muslims and the Future of Islam you see why: Ramadan could operate the language of the West on the terrain of Western secular philosophy, despite promoting a traditionalist view of Islam. Ramadan was a conservative European Muslim, but one fluent in the traditions of Continental philosophy.

In an even more academic manner, the conservative Protestant philosopher Alvin Plantinga forces the secular analytic tradition to take him somewhat seriously, rather than dismiss him out of hand as a third-rate apologist. You may remain skeptical of the ontological argument for the existence of God (I do remain unconvinced), but when Plantinga deploys modal logic and extents Norman Malcolm’s arguments, you can’t say that he hasn’t put some thought into the matter.

On the whole, I remain unconvinced by the argument that all Hindu nationalists are somehow genocidal Nazis* (just like I don’t think all conservative Muslims are jihadis).  But, I do think that one of the problems that Hindu nationalists face is the lack of voices who can articulate a vision that is uncompromising, but also fluent in the lexical currency and the rhetorical style of the West.

To be entirely frank, running this weblog, and engaging Hindu nationalists on Twitter has brought home to me how parochial many Indians and Hindus remain in their concerns and their broader vision. That is fine insofar as India as a nation of over one billion. It is a world in and of itself. But if conservative Hindus do want to be taken seriously by the outside world, they need to start being able to present themselves in a manner that is both intelligible and persuasive, as opposed to engaging in blusters for the amen choir.

* I am now becoming convinced that non-Western social and political movements are too often connected to Western ones that add no value to the discussion.

36 thoughts on “Hindutva need a Tariq Ramadan (without the rape allegations!)”

  1. Well the reason you find Hindutva parochial is because (it is true and) their concern are limited to mostly S-Asia. They are not upholders of any trans continental religion unlike Christianity and Islam. So it makes sense (i guess). They say they have a world view, but what they have is (mostly) an Indian view. They are still battling for supreme primacy at home, so their concern lies there. Conservative Islam has won that battle in their countries, and so has moved to newer pastures.

    Also Hindutva rise to power is a very recent phenomena. To compare it to conservative Islam intellectual output (who have a much longer history) is expecting too much, too soon. An ideology has to sustain politically, only then it can have consistent articulation on other matters. Right now the Hindu right intellectually is still in state of flux, still trying to come to terms of their new found power. All in all, a bumpy ride ahead.

  2. The best analogy for Hindu nationalism’s current state is American Nationalist Conservatism (as seen in the recent conference.) That is also a rebel movement with negligible institutional backing that is now gaining ground. The issue is that there’s really nothing uniting Tucker Carlson and John Bolton except that they hate the Left, so it has a ways to go.

    Hindu Nationalism as we know it has been around for only a few decades, and it is just now securing power (and who knows, it may disappear later anyways.) Recently, there was the Pondy Lit Fest, where intellectual exponents of the Right gathered for a discussion…that went pretty much nowhere. Did anyone expect Tavleen Singh and Anand Ranganathan to agree on anything?

    I guess what I’m saying is that Hindu nationalism as we know it is still a WIP. Once it’s a finished product, and the Indian Left is more fully marginalized, it can (and should, IMO) begin more sophisticated intellectual outreach.

    1. Carlson and Bolton both likely share the likes of Benjamin Franklin, William Buckley, Theodore Roosevelt and Barry Goldwater as influences. Bolton is influenced more by his Christianity, Carlson by libertarianism but they would find plenty to agree on.

  3. One more thing to think of is: what is there to be gained from such a project?

    Fun thing to do at home: go to your Barnes and Nobles and look at the history and current affairs bookshelves. You see lots of biographies of great men, a ton of space on World War Two, much less space on Early Modern Europe, less still on China…and when it comes to India, you’ll have maybe John Keay’s book and a few others.

    Let’s be honest, most Westerners don’t know or care about India. A few Lefties hate on it as a bank shot for their Islamophilia project, but aside from that nobody cares much. The Lefties are, by their nature, going to be closed off to a book defending Hindu nationalism. The rest of America simply will ignore it.

  4. /They are not upholders of any trans continental religion unlike Christianity and Islam/

    Anan would disagree!

  5. In an earlier generation , there were philosophers like Radhakrishnan who could straddle Hindu and western worlds intellectually.
    Tariq Ramadan does not explain Islam per se to the western world or to the Muslims, his concern is Muslim immigrants in the west, just as he is. From the time of Rushdie fatwa and a hundreds of happenings in which traditional Islamic approach to politics and life looked incompatible with western political and social mores, the western establishments desperately needed few Muslims who could “interpret” Islam to the west and the Muslim immigrants so that the latter don’t start jihad in their host countries and go on suicide bombings. That is where he fitted the bill. To be cynical, one can call him spinmeister for Islam in the west. He was employed as a “pacifier” of young Muslims in the west by the western governments. He had a pedigree as a grandson of Banna , the founder of Muslim Brotherhood and he filled his appointed role well till overtaken by rape allegations.

    One must hand it over to Islamic governments who have pumped in lot of money into western universities and think tanks to give a good gloss on Islam. Even unis like Oxford or LSE are bastions of Islamophilia due to money power

  6. Have a vague memory of your commenting unfavorably about Suhag Shukla using SJW rhetorical tools.

    Be that as it may, it is relatively easy to agree that:

    (i) The overwhelming majority of Hindu voices “lack the lexical currency and rhetorical style of the West”, so the ones that do, to the extent such exist, are drowned out by the ones that don’t.

    (ii) Hindu concerns aren’t taken seriously in the west.

    I just don’t see that fixing (i) will fix (ii), since no one takes anyone else’s concerns seriously unless they have something to gain from doing so. I am sure we all have our lists of intellectual powerhouses who aren’t taken seriously (except for an almost cult-ish following by a high IQ community that is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things) because they don’t offer much virtue-signalling or other selfishness-channelling opportunities.

    Ultimately the problem with Hindus and Hinduism is that no one has anything to gain in short enough term from helping Hindus/Hinduism, including (nominally) Hindu elite themselves. This is not only the reason for (ii) being true, but also the reason for (i) being true – the smart Hindus mostly choose to be liberal because mild-left-type virtue signalling is what helps their career (not that they become insightful liberals, rather just banally liberal enough to grease the cogs in their career).

    1. “Have a vague memory of your commenting unfavorably about Suhag Shukla using SJW rhetorical tools.”

      U should get your memory checked. No idea who she was until I talked to her

      1. The Hindu America Foundation has tried to cultivate me because I wrote two articles favorable to the Indian narrative once. However, they mistook my support, derived from some sympathy toward cultural nationalism as a global phenomenon and from my classical liberalism, as the support of a true believer. Suhag Shukla et al.’s SWJ “Hinduphobia” strategy rubs me the wrong way.

        Check the articles out. Perhaps they approximate what you’re looking for, as well as my recent commentary on a changing India.





          1. Saurav wrote:

            “@Akhilesh Good articles BTW”

            He (Akhilesh) never replied to my email on an article in Chicago Tribune (or was it Washington Post?) a few months ago. Not that I was holding my breath. A peddler of “corrupt news” and an ” enemy of the American people” was sure to show up on this list sooner or later. Take a listen below Mr. Pilllalamarri


            How is that “impeachment inquiry” going by the way?

      2. The tweet is of course deleted by now, and my memory could be wrong, but my impression is that you commented on the substance of her tweet without knowing or caring about or commenting on the identity of the person. So you may not remember the name, but you will likely remember whether you felt Hindu organizations were using SJW terminology.

        1. this makes sense.

          i am ambivalent about the strategy. …but, i see the logic.

          basically, i have no problem personally with hindu(s) demanding the same respect that others are given. i simply think everyone should be given less respect 😉

          (this post is not about what HAF is doing; they are more like a cultural/civil rights org)

  7. On the whole I agree with the title and say it loud- Hindutva needs ppl like TR and even better

    OTOH, the bulk of Indian intellectual tradition was made by recluses – Hindu or Buddhist who did not bother about power politics . Much of western and Islamic thought is about power politics , the latter more so. So, there is a big gulf there

  8. Won’t happen Razib. At its core right wing Hinduism really doesn’t care about promoting or preaching the faith for new converts in new lands abroad. The conservatives want India and maybe in a broader sense the Indian subcontinent at most.

    Now people are happy if there are new converts and new supporters, but that’s not the primary aim.

    If you want to check out a right winger who speaks language of the west and based on the west search rajiv malhotra on YouTube. I really like some of what he had to say.

  9. If anything what Hindutva needs is a bengali , tamilian ,malyali etc speaking Tariq Ramadan who could first explain those folks, before turning to win arguments in the West . LOL

    1. Pretty much. Hindutva really seems based around Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati communities.

      1. Did you use mean capital-H ‘Hindutva’ ? If not, Vivekanand and Bankim Chandra come to mind as effective (Bengali) voices for hindutva.

        Maybe to achieve Ramadan-dom, Hindutva needs Bengali leadership. Look how well they have done as voices for the Left.

      1. “Subramanian Swamy”
        Renegade Tamil!

        When were TamBrahms considered true Tamils any way?

      2. He’s just one person… and if I remember, correctly, didn’t he only hold a south Indian seat for one year? His career has been in the North.

  10. I am linking a podcast regarding debate & Arguments and the real problem that Hindus have faced since their interactions with Abrahamic world views are exactly the same as described in this podcast regarding ‘Conservatives’ – {Now imagine your arguments being deconstructed to create a meaning which you are not intending to say & then apply this problem to atleast some 500-1000 yrs. – that’s what Hindus are dealing with.}


    Sadly this style of argumentation has became so prevalent that i don’t see any future of ‘Critical studies’ since all they bring to the table are only criticism of every position but brings no positive agenda or solutions to the table.

  11. There are lots of right wing hindus in the south. They have a different brand and they won’t compromise on language (Asuras getting some revenge on Indra and all), but there is definitely a new strain of pan hinduism that has hit the south too.

    But Islam has a different history in the south – we don’t have temples that were destroyed etc and we’re just calmer people by nature so you don’t see it in the speeches or riots etc.

    And because there are no imminent conflicts around religious sites, the need to vote BJP is lessened somewhat. Same for hindu rashtra etc.

    1. “we’re just calmer people by nature so you don’t see it in the speeches or riots etc.”

      LOL, there are other ways to say “we are just better people”. 😛

        1. @Saurav – there are South Indians who appreciate that there would be no Hindu south as we know it without the north fighting for so long. Especially the Marathas who did us a massive favour.

          1. The idea that the north saved the south from anything is a fairytale (did they save bengal too?). If anything, vast numbers of north indian hindus were part of the turkic armies that regularly campaigned in the deccan and further down. Hindu solidarity was minimal, and probably for good enough reasons, because we were foreign to each other back then and whatever various proto-hinduisms we practiced were not in existential crisis. Indian history as popularly rendered is northern hindu centric, fairly enough, so minor military accomplishments of sikhs and rajputs are amplified in relevance. Had krishnadevaraya or shivaji been gangetic men, they would be on the 100 rupee note.

    2. we don’t have temples that were destroyed etc
      Not true. Check out some of the ruins around Warangal (I’d consider it part of the south.) I imagine Malik Kafur’s raids up to Madurai took their toll on local temples, though once Vijayanagara got launched, these may have been forgotten. Finally, Tipu Sultan was not shy of demolishing temples as punishment for resistance (like Aurangzeb did, I believe.)

  12. there would be no Hindu south as we know it without the north fighting for so long.

    I think you are selling the south short here, Mohan (and overselling resistance in the north.) India was close to being 100% under Islamic rule when the Vijayanagara Empire began. It was born in the south and confined to it. Nothing that happened in the north (which at the time was completely under the control of sultanates) affected it, at least for 200 years. And it was those 200 years that made the difference between the prevailing cultures in north and south (and the middle Deccan, Maharashtra and Telengana, which has an in-between culture.)

    From the late 1500s on, even southern India fell under Muslim rule and remained that way until the British conquests. The Marathas didn’t have much to do with this one way or the other. They made periodic raids, and established dynasties in parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but nothing more than that. And Rajput resistances in the north, however valorous, were usually no more than irritants to Delhi, though it did help some of them (like Mewar) keep their independence. Had no effect either way on the south.

    1. The North fought it own battles and the South its own. I just recently shitted on Shivaji and now its time for our very own Krishnadevaraya/VijayNagar.

      First of all when VJ started, N-India wasn;t 100 percent Islamic rule. Rajputana was more or less free (with its rulers regularly beating Malwa and Gujrati Sultanate) . By the time Babar came , the tottering Delhi Sultanate had faced defeats on their hands.
      The areas East of Bhopal was ruled by Tribal, Oriya Kingdoms. Same with Ahoms in Assam.

      Now coming to VJ, almost all its success came against lesser powers, like Madurai Sultanate ( who were isolated from Northen muslim powers) or against Reddys of Telengana or Oriya Kings. The only equal power it faced where the Shia Bahmanis (so limited support from Sunni rulers) , who routinely defeated them (in VJ’s own land) in the first half century of their rivalry. So much so that VJ had to shift their capital to better defend against Iranian cavalry which Bahmani had.

      Most of the success VJ had was only in the second half of their rivalry where Bahmani was already broken into subsequent Sultanates and VJ could defeat them individually. But then Talikota happened.

  13. “You may remain skeptical of the ontological argument for the existence of God (I do remain unconvinced)…”

    One curious aspect that I have noticed about the atheists coming from the cultural background of Abrahamic religions is that even when they reject the existence of all supernatural powers, they always form the debate around the possibility of existence of one single God. The question is always that if an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God exists or not. In this way they implicitly give a higher currency to Semitic religious beliefs even in rejection.

    For some reason, the possibility that there may be gods with limited powers over the destiny of humans, and with deeply human traits like susceptibility to flattery and bribes (think Hindu gods), never occurs to them.

    In some ways, existence of multiple gods with limited powers is much more logical, primarily because it does not pose the problem of evil (there is only so much your local village deity can do. it can save its devotee from earthquake, but can’t prevent the earthquake itself).

    To me an omnipotent God is an obvious logical fallacy given the self evident imperfections in the universe.

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