Reducing Hindu nationalism to the Enemy

Politico has a silly piece up, How Hindu Nationalism Could Shape the Election. The silliness is in the title: Hindu nationalism will not shape the election. No one in the USA knows what it is. No one in the USA cares. But headlines need to justify the “deep-dives.”

The author clearly had a preconceived conclusion, and it’s pretty much a paint-by-numbers article in that light. There is zero chance that any Indian Amerian journalist will write a sympathetic portrait of Hindu nationalism, and develop a “strange new respect.” The conclusion is baked into the cake.

With that said, why do many Indian Americans get so angry at these sorts of pieces? I would appreciate comments (unhinged and somewhat concise please, I know many of you are going “bug-eye” over this piece, so calm down).

First, this quote jumps out: “Savarkar made clear that he saw Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews as a model for dealing with India’s Muslims.” Any mention of Nazi Germany in a Western context as an analogy is poisonous. It’s like having an expensive multi-course meal at the French Laundry, and then they tell you there’s a touch of feces in one of the items. The totality of what you’re eating no longer matters, you are not going to eat even a little bit of shit. Any mention of Nazis is going to ruin and color the whole thing. You know what the audience will take away, and you know what the writer intends.

But that brings us to the point that from a liberal perspective there were many unpleasant things associated with early Hindu nationalist ideology, and Hindutva-identified people have been associated with atrocities for decades, from Godse down to leaders in the Gujarat riots. Isn’t this fair?

I think the problem here is that the same journalists who would reject the reduction of Islam to Sayyid Qutb or shrug off the relevance of the Nazi sympathies of the Mufti of Jerusalem have no problem engaging in reductionism in relation to Hindu nationalism and Hinduism. Basically, many Indians see that Islam and Muslims are treated with generosity, and not judged by their lowest moments, while the converse is true for Hindus and Hinduism. Muhammad, the notional founder of Islam, engaged in sex slavery. This is just a fact. But Muslims are not judged by Muhammad’s illiberality, while Hindus are judged by illiberal interpretations of Manusmriti. Why? (some scholars and politicians in the Gulf have used sex slavery as a justification for the tolerance of Russian sex workers, so it’s a live issue)

For reasons that are only partly clear over the last few decades, the global Left and the West’s intelligentsia has taken a default philo-Islamic stance. Modi’s India can be depicted in very negative terms, while there is benign neglect of persistent and massive human rights abuses in Pakistan. The differing standards obviously enrage many Hindus, but the deeper question is why. Is this a “bottom-up” process, or, are there larger institutions that have made particular decisions? Remember, most Westerners are very vague about Hinduism, and have never seen the word “Hindutva.” These journalists and publications are shaping first impressions. Where are their marching orders coming from?

The same people who would decry demands that Rashida Tlaib denounce her own kith and kin as guilt by association are demanding that Preston Kulkarni do exactly that. Where do these double-standards come from?

In the future, I expect we’ll see more “think pieces” and “investigations” of American Hindus and Hinduism which sheds light on dark developments in this subculture. Meanwhile, there will be benign neglect of the illiberalities among American Muslims and Islam. The media’s attention and energy are finite, and they are quite selective about what they devote their focus to. Focus is clarifying, because it tells you what they care about, and what their motives are.

Open Thread – 10/31/2020 – Brown Pundits

So I started a Subreddit. You can start your own threads there. Eventually, that might make the “open threads” redundant (they are not scaling well with ~400 comments per week).

I’ve posted a few podcasts on the Patreon. One is a new podcast from Richard Hanania, where he takes a skeptical stance toward France in relation to the late unpleasantness. But several are from the Substack I’m starting shortly (probably next week). Probably won’t be posting those in the future.

Why do Muslims React More to France Than to China?

The last few days have seen two separate terrorist incidents in France, both involving Muslim youth (both refugees, not French-born Muslims) beheading (or trying to behead) French civilians because of perceived outrage over blasphemy. In the first shocking incident a teacher named Samuel Paty tried to do what good teachers do; he was teaching about freedom of expression and wanted to show the cartoons that led to the murderous assaults on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He told his Muslim students that if they felt uncomfortable seeing those cartoons, they could step outside the class. There is no indication that he himself said anything that could be construed as an attack on the prophet. But the very fact that he showed the famous cartoons in his class was enough to rile up at least one of the Muslim student’s parents, who started to outrage on social media, which led a Chechen youth named Abdullah to travel a 100 km, find the teacher by paying his students to point him out and then beheaded him on a public road before being shot dead himself.

France teacher attack: Seven charged over Samuel Paty's killing - BBC News

If this was not bad enough, today another “refugee” (this one from Tunisia) went on a stabbing/beheading spree at the basilica of Notre Dame in Nice and killed 2 women and a 55 year old sexton. Another person, this time in Saudi Arabia, stabbed a guard at the French consulate before being arrested. At the same time there have been massive protests in Bangladesh, a mock beheading at a girl’s school in Pakistan, official protests from Pakistan and Turkey and boycotts of French products all across the Muslim world. Continue reading Why do Muslims React More to France Than to China?

Book Review: Friendly Fire by Ami Ayalon

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – Friendly Fire by Ami Ayalon

Hamid Hussain

“As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).”                   
  Mahmoud Darwish

Ami Ayalon’s book is a compilation of an autobiography including his own personal journey from a warrior to a peacemaker and a review of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He narrates his adult life fighting for Israel’s security as naval and internal security officer.  He builds his case to his country men that he is not advocating two state solution as a favor to Palestinians but sees this as the only solution to preserve Israel as a Jewish democratic state.  He fears that continued occupation of Palestinians will end up Israel as ‘a dystopian society that is tyrannical for those under our boots, and toxic and self-defeating for all’.

Ami has the audacity of hope in a very depressing situation.  My own two trips to Israel and Palestinian territories were focused on visiting Crusader era and First World War era landmarks related to Indian army.  However, I interacted with number of Israelis and Palestinians and found hardening of attitudes on both sides.  Tech savvy Israeli youth are focused on advancing their careers and number of young Palestinians making every effort to get away from what to them is a large prison and seek a better life away from their homeland.  Both these groups don’t care much about everyday politics. Israeli society and politics have taken a sharp right turn.  They are using a single verse of Bible in the Book of Genesis 15:18 ‘To your descendants I give this land’ as a property deed for Jewish people and view Palestinians as mere squatters and holders of a stolen property.  If this is the basis of the claim then they have to quote the whole verse that “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”.   Will they simply be happy with the half of the covenant and not go for the whole inheritance from Nile to Euphrates?

Palestinians are rapidly losing the hope of a two state solution in view of expanding Jewish settlements and rest of the Arab world moving on with their lives.  This impasse has given rise to many trends, but two prominent ones are two extremes of a single state where they will try to get their rights based on universal democratic principles and the other extreme of a continued war until final victory over Jews.

In 1981, when Ami was attending a course at US Naval War College, a Pakistani Colonel approached him and told him that ‘Don’t permit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to become a contest between Judaism and Islam.  Don’t lift the lid off that Pandora’s box.  We can live with Israel, and your fight with the Palestinians is of no interest to Pakistan.  Just don’t fool around with the Islamic holy sites or use religion to justify your claims.  That would tear apart the entire world”.  Thirty years later, Ami saw both sides taking refuge in religion from their fears. As head of Shin Bet, for the first time, Ami had to run informants among hardline religious settlers and haul them in for interrogation.  Ami has understood this dilemma that ‘the way we understand our history is the barrier to a real compromise because it controls our actions and fears, and therefore our future”.  The religious right of Jews and Muslims are thumping their scriptures to claim holy land.  Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Imams are arguing about who are the chosen people of the Lord and resigned to the coming Armageddon.  I reflected on these claims when I was visiting Megiddo; the place where this Armageddon is supposed to take place.

Ami is not a leftist or a peacenik.  He is a realist who is willing to sit with opponents whether right wing religious fellow Israelis or Palestinians to understand their point of view.  He comes on the peace table with stellar credentials.  His whole life was spent as a warrior.  He was a naval commando and commanded elite naval commando force Flotilla 13, served as chief of Israeli navy and head of internal security Shabak (Shin Bet).  Later, in pursue of peace, he joined politics and became member of Israeli parliament Knesset.

He brings hope to his people as well as Palestinians.  He is not alone in this endeavor. In 2012, he helped Israeli documentary film maker Dror Moreh that was considered as coup when five former Shin Bet heads sat in front of camera and reviewed the policies of internal security.  They concluded that continued occupation of Palestinian territories was bad for Israel.  The film The Gatekeepers was the best documentary film in Academy Awards nominations.  Over two hundred former senior security officials from Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Mossad, Sin Bet and police have formed an organization named Commanders for Israel Security.  They see two state solution as a guarantee for Israel security. Ami has made the correct diagnosis that ‘We’re so trapped behind our own walls; we can’t see what seems obvious to outsiders’.  Israelis don’t’ need goyim (non-Jew) to tell them what is good for them? They need to listen to fellow Israelis who spent their lives defending the country.

“Tombstones break,

words pass, words are forgotten,

lips that uttered them turn to dust,

languages die like people, and other languages are resurrected,

gods in the heavens change,

gods come and go.

Prayers remain forever.”                               Yehuda Amichai


Ami Ayalon with Anthony David.  Friendly Fire: How Israel Became Its own Worst Enemy and the Hope for Its Future (Lebanon, New Hampshire: Steer Forth Press), 2020

Hamid Hussain

25 October 2020

Defence Journal, November 2020

A Hindu nationalist in the House?

Slate has published a transparent “hit piece” on Preston Kulkarni, who is likely to win a seat for the Democrats in Houston. I say hit piece because it doesn’t seem deeply reported, but sourced from Pieter Friedrich, who I have mostly seen online as a rather inflammatory activist, not a dispassionate scholar.

A reporter in the area, Chad Washington, notes that believe it or not, people in and around this area of suburban Houston are not very interested in the fact Kulkarni might have “ties” to the Hindu Right.

There are two issues I want to highlight here as to why I’m putting this post up (which to be frank does amplify what I think shouldn’t be an issue at all):

– The demand that people denounce all sorts of things that they claim to barely even understand in the interests of solidarity and popular fronts is pretty ridiculous. Kulkarni is aiming to represent suburban Houston in the House. His opinions on Indian politics are unimportant. There are cases where Muslims are asked to ritually denounce everything under the sun and everyone they may have shared a stage with. That’s bullshit. And this is bullshit.

– It is strange to me how the “Left” can so naturally use the language of xenophobia to attack xenophobia. Here is the title: “Why Are Democrats Backing a House Candidate With Reportedly Shady Foreign Ties?” Foreign ties? I mean, his last name is {{{Kulkarni}}}. He worships elephants! His white mother married a foreigner. What’s wrong with her!

Obviously, the Indian American writer of the hit piece isn’t anti-Indian as such, but this opportunistic recourse to this rhetoric and guilt-by-association won’t end well.

Update: OK the Republicans/Christian Right are now after him.

Caste in 2nd Generation American Diaspora

Saw some very interesting conversations on caste in America in the recent Open Thread and wanted to hear more perspectives as well as sharing my own.

Growing up, I wasn’t aware of my caste nor my friends’ caste. I still am unaware of most other Indian-Americans’ castes (besides obvious ones like Sharma and a few Gujarati ones I know) and never thought too much of it. Caste just doesn’t seem to factor into 2nd Gens…except this trio of exceptions:

  1. The SJW Brahmins

  2. The Victim Card Dalits

  3. Poonjabi (NOT INDIAN!!!!) Jatts

Group 1 seems like a case of White Guilt with a few drops of saffron. Read any BuzzFeed-esque article written by this group and you could easily Find & Replace “White” with “Brahmin” (or “Hindu” if they are really deep in the hole) and “Black” with “Dalit.” Simple transpositions on an infinitely more complex topic.

Group 2 is enrolling in the grand Oppression Olympics that is underway in America. While I recognize the dire need to address the discrimination against Dalits in India, I cannot for the life of me understand how any 2nd gen would even be aware enough to discriminate against another 2nd gen based on caste. I can’t memorize that many last names and their associated caste. Maybe it happens amongst immigrants, but I can’t imagine any impact between Indian-Americans born in the US.

Equality Labs is probably the vilest and most prominent example of this new vehicle in action where they even want to make caste an official marker in the USA.

Both Group 1 and 2 label any “Hindu” practice, no matter how inconsequential or innocent (like Holi, vegetarianism, pujas, tilaks, the literal color orange, etc…), as Brahminical Patriarchy, fascism, and/or casteism. The agenda is pretty clear cut. See my “Brahminism” post. 

Group 3 is honestly a conundrum to me. I just don’t understand the “why” in this group. But the lack of understanding makes it the easiest group to lampoon. Can only listen to music where the word “Jatt” is rammed into the song at least 40x, or else it’s Hindi music. This clique proudly flaunts their caste like they’re back in India (oops, sorry I meant Punjab). They’re in an intermittent digital war with Hindu E-Trads (who are already a shitshow themselves), many times because of some unnecessary and out the way slandering of India/other Indian ethnic groups or E-Trads disgusting edgelording over 1984. There is a heavy pour of Punjabi/Jatt chauvinism (and Scythian???). In the end, it goes back to what I said at the beginning – I don’t get the “WHY” for this group.

When I initially asked my fairly religious Punjabi Sikh friends why the singers keep saying “Jutt” in all the bhangra music I listened to – they rolled their eyes, explained it’s a caste, and then called them dumbasses and we laughed off. They then told me to call anyone who engages in that behavior a “tatti di sabzi.” I think that’s a fair response for all of the above.

Save for these 3, I don’t think caste is that important to most Indian-Americans, including normal Brahmins, Dalits, Jatts (note – I am none of these so it’s just my outside perspective).


They say blogs are dead. They say comments are dead. To my surprise, this website has surprised me. In the later years of the Sepia Mutiny weblog the number of comments started dropping off. The theory was that people were commenting more on Facebook (Twitter wasn’t huge then). Google Analytics says that more than 20,000 people are reading this website in a given month. That’s not trivial, but it’s small. That being said, the comment threads are often “hopping.”

This is good and nice. How do we maintain this? I don’t moderate much at this point but am worried about things getting out of control. That being said, this is not a job and I have lots of other things to attend to. Thoughts?

Open Thread – 10/24/2020 – Brown Pundits

Going to post some notes on the latest podcast here. I talked to Fred Martin, who is of Haitian origin, but pretty stridently French, and a liberal. We discussed the killing of Samuel Paty, and Islam and Islamism in France. We also mooted the differences in relation to race between the USA and France, and our contrasting experiences. Finally, we talk about the coming winter of coronavirus in Europe.

A lot of the discussion centered around the contrast between France and the USA, which is always interesting to explore.

Thanks to everyone who is a Patron. I’ve started posting podcasts which you can’t find elsewhere yet there…

On Twitter, Suhag Shukla has been pushing back on the “caste is a huge problem for Indian Americans” narrative. I think she’s right on the specific issue. But, I am skeptical when she seems to attribute caste to colonialism, or, that it is not tightly integrated into Hinduism. I think Hinduism has a caste problem like Islam has a religious oppression problem. Religions are made by humans, and how they play out is a human matter. For whatever reason, Islamic societies have not been pluralistic in an egalitarian manner to other religions, while Hinduism in India is hard to disentangle from caste and jati. This doesn’t mean they’re necessary connections. Caste and jati are not major issues in Balinese or Cham Hinduism, though varna does exist.

The major dynamic which needs to be reiterated is that American Hinduism is very distinct from Hinduism in India, just as American Islam is very distinct from Islam in the Near East. I’m 99% sure that the Indian Americans I know (Generation X) would exhibit no caste bias of any note because in the USA it’s just not relevant in any way.

Brown Pundits Subreddit.

Not all societies are identical

There is some discussion on “Hindu Twitter” and elsewhere about the French response to the murder of Samuel Paty. In short, France is going “medieval” on the asses of a lot of Muslims, even nonviolent but very conservative organizations. To use a German phrase, the French state is entering into a Kulturkampf against militant Islam. Or at least it is signaling that it is.

To all this, some on the Hindu Right are asking why some liberal or Left intellectuals are applauding or tolerating France’s reaction, which is hitting down hard on the Muslim community. Would they be so tolerant of India clamping down on Muslims? My own answer is simple: different nations have different histories, and abstract universal values and standards are often not useful.

Continue reading Not all societies are identical

Tibeto-Burmans, Munda, and Bengalis

I’m pretty sure I posted this Chaubey lab work as a preprint, but it’s now a published paper. For those who can’t understand the table, it illustrates a big difference between Tibeto-Burmans and Munda. The samples from Bangladesh look to be generic Bangladeshis, the 10% frequency for O2a seems to match the other data I’ve seen for East Bengalis.

This confirms that the East Asian admixture into Bengalis was not Munda. And, the Tibeto-Burmans of the nTibeortheast have no assimilated Munda ancestry. I think it does lend more credence to the idea that the Munda arrived in the Indian subcontinent across the Bay of Bengal, landing in Odisha, rather than from the northeast.

Brown Pundits