Reducing Hindu nationalism to the Enemy

By Razib Khan 45 Comments

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.

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45 Replies to “Reducing Hindu nationalism to the Enemy”

  1. “Is this a “bottom-up” process, or, are there larger institutions that have made particular decisions?”

    I think its just lack of material regarding India and NRI’s. India has gone from poor, snake charmers to somewhat relevant in US. There is hardly any info on Indian politics, which necessitates the rise of ‘native-informant’. The SJW Brahmins and the less-Hindu ethnicities.

    Every Yin needs a Yang, so Yoga-Gandhi-non violent Hindu meets Nazi-Hindutva. Creates the whole Mullah ruled Iran vs Secular ‘Cyrus loving’ Persian momentum.

  2. https://twitter.com/RoKhanna/status/1322639312220004358

    “Attacking @sonipaul for her journalism is equivalent to Trump’s attacks on the free press. She actually understands the philosophy of Gandhi, the Gita and the Vedas more than the fringe groups who launch attacks based on prejudice.”

    ‘Self-conception’ of SJW Brahmins and Trads about Hinduism. It would have been laughable, had it not been sad

  3. > why do many Indian Americans get so angry at these sorts of pieces?
    One reason is the impact of such pieces on second generation Indian Americans. In most Indian American households, children have been brought up in pretty liberal political environment, reading NYT, supporting democrats, and not finding it necessary to educate them about their view of Hindutva, even as they applauded Modi, and recognized him as a leader who they hope is providing a non-corrupt development oriented governance (mis-steps aside), while asserting Hindu civilizational pride in India. This generation is now listening to Hasan Minhaz, and this new breed of articles/shows in NPR, NYT, and now this article. Like you said, “These journalists and publications are shaping first impressions.”.

  4. I’d like to gently push back against the notion that “[t]here is zero chance that any Indian Amerian journalist will write a sympathetic portrait of Hindu nationalism,” by way of my own work. Although, I must admit, I’ve become less sympathetic since I wrote the piece, particularily because of Yogi Adityanath strain of Hindu nationalism in Uttar Pradesh, and I wish I had more space to incorporate nuance into my pieces. Here are the articles–I got a lot of pushback in the comments!

    1. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/dont-fear-the-modi-hinduism-makes-india-great/

    2. https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/indias-right-to-cultural-self-determination/

    Most pieces on India in the Western media, by Indian or Indian-American authors do seem to take this sort of stance against Hindutva that plays to a liberal or liberal-educated American/Western audience. I don’t think most of these authors are making these arguments in bad-faith, but are unable to treat the topic with nuance because of their backgrounds. Many Indian-Americans also seem to go “ultra liberal” as a way of rebellion or reaction against their conservative parents. I myself went through this stage in Middle School before growing out of it. But, yes, obviously India and Hindusim are held to a different standard than Islam and Muslim-majority countries. If anything, this comes down to it being a softer target, and the fact that the Indian-right does not have a very good PR game: the BJP needs to get its leaders to publish well-written op-eds in the NYT, WSJ, and not cede this ground.

    1. WSJ maybe, NYT and Economist are basically propaganda, and FinTimes is printing Arundhati Roy (which tells you everything.) When the press has turned itself into a propaganda tool, I don’t think BJP can get or should seek a fair hearing. Time to move on and look for other ways to get the point across.

    2. Akhilesh, great to have you here on BP! (Didn’t know you were “AP”.)

      Do you think some of the unthinking support for Muslims stems from the fact that the US has politically and militarily targeted so many Muslim countries: this includes the long-standing support of the Israel cause and consequent denigration of the Palestinian one, conquest and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, making Iran a pariah country, etc? Perhaps people see Muslims as America’s special victims and therefore overcompensate in its favor when they write articles about Muslims and Islam, like leftists are wont to do?

      1. Numinous, you I more or less agree with you. People don’t realize however that the Muslim world is diverse too geopolitically. How will the left come to terms with the rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf Arabs? That sort of realpolitik is not very well suited to its mentality.

      2. “Do you think some of the unthinking support for Muslims stems from the fact that the US has politically and militarily targeted so many Muslim countries..”

        this is probably true, and it goes deeper in history. west has a long history with islam, unlike hinduism. (west barely knew about the hindus before the industrial age). so part of the kid-glove treatment of unpalatable aspects of islam could be attributed to white guilt.

        during the crusades, christian atrocities on muslims were were clearly much larger in proportion than the other way round. for example, when christians took jerusalem in first crusade, they massacred its entire muslim population. no such massacre occurred when saladin took jerusalem in third crusade. instead he offered pretty generous terms to christians by the standard of medieval world. so yes, i guess western left is overcompensating when dealing with muslim societies.

    3. The BJP will find it impossible to justify its position within a Western liberal framework, of course there is nothing special about the BJP, as most other countries (barring the Western ones) have some for of majoritarianism which is anathema in the West. The trick these publications use is to selectively condemn majoritarianism countries depending on the agenda on that day.

      1. “as most other countries (barring the Western ones) have some for of majoritarianism which is anathema in the West.”

        That’s because liberalism IS western majoritarianism.

  5. fair point. though amcon is not mainstream (i am friends with some of the founders, wrote for them in 2003, and am friendly with many who work there now)

  6. I need to find a book or some sort of comprehensive piece that explains the modern day unholy alliance between the Left and Islamoapologists/softcore islamists. I just don’t get the hypocrisy of defending some of the most illiberal stuff and claiming to be liberal.

    I agree will Bill Maher’s take on a lot of this.

    The other issue I think is that conservative smart people in India end up going for technical fields. Same with the ones in America. Fewer proportionally go into law or journalism, so their critical mass relative to their size in the humanities is a lot smaller. This is true among a lot of conservative demographies. But I suspect more acutely so for the Hindu Right.

  7. I would put the biggest issue at the feet of Indian Hindus (Born Hindus) who write pieces about Hindutva but while being Islamophilic.
    Part of it is just ideological , part of it I presume is AllIsFairInWar. Most of these Hindus see themselves as being in an Eternal War with Hindutva and hence can go any length to put it down. Many genuinely believe they’re doing it – biased tenuous reporting – for the greater good. If we and our Allies can’t win elections fair n square let’s make a Noise in the West. Then Western pressure from elite white liberals and government tame Hindutva and teach Indians the write way to Vote . Because they look up to western validation they expect others to do so. They don’t realise that this even triggers the nativist in me though I consider myself an opponent of Hindutva

  8. Everyone hates apostates more than heathens.

    Islamic societies apostatized from the true faith of liberalism a long time ago, or never had it. Cambodia (for example) never really had it. Lefties shrugged and moved on.

    India was never a liberal society, but a very voluble elite successfully convinced credulous foreigners that it was. Now the lie is shown, so foreigners have their knickers in a twist because they believe we are apostatizing, and they have no shortage of Indian Lefties to talk to (who for their part are eager to take their war to Western broadsheets, having lost twice now in the LS.)

    The liberals hate Hungary and Orban for a similar reason, they believe it apostatized from their true faith.

    Ultimately, the way to force them to be more objective is to make it clear that there’s no shred of a future for liberalism in India. How to do that, I leave up to the reader.

  9. There are probably a few ingredients in this devil’s brew:

    1. Reflexive support for the underdog
    2. Desire to undercut any successful political movement with a religious basis
    3. Inability to take Muslims as an organized polity with genuine ambitions seriously in America (cf. Canada?)
    4. Collateral antisemitism (meaning Jews) just spilling over
    5. Inferiority complex and a sense that Muslims need to be defended against all enemies everywhere all the time because elite culture is fickle and does not take Islam seriously except as a terrorist threat, whereas every old churchgoing lady who goes spiritual finds solace in Hinduism or Buddhism.

    All of them needn’t apply to the same person or at the same time. It’s probably too paranoid to think it’s top down, but writers exist to supply narratives to magazines — and I guess this is what some of them are buying.

    Note what they are not buying though: calm, reasoned explanations about why many people are deeply drawn to Islam or any other religion. So part of what they are selling is conflict, everywhere.

  10. Could it be as simple as just partisan politics? GWB launched the war on terror, and by impression at least it was mostly white Republicans types who took a hard line with Islam (e.g. opposed the mosque near the twin towers) or dabbled in Islamophobia. Obama continued the war on terror, but bent over backwards to reassure everyone he had no problem with Islam. Trump instituted the so called Muslim ban. Then on the other hand, Trump and Modi seem like pals.

  11. Folks on twitter are confused and commenting that the author of the article is not Hindu, looking at the surname. So her accusations against Hindutva doesn’t matter.

    She is a Bong. At least her surname is. So the twitter folks are correct 😛

    1. I often wish that Pakistan had gotten all of West Bengal in Partition…they have been nothing but a poisoned pawn for us. In an alternate timeline they are annoying somebody else.

      1. “I often wish that Pakistan had gotten all of West Bengal in Partition…they have been nothing but a poisoned pawn for us.”

        hard to believe, but modern hindu nationalism was invented in bengal.

        bankimchandra, bipin pal, aurobindo, they all were HN to varying degrees. bengali bhadralok is the font of moden HN. but ever since the communist bug bit them, they have been cranky.

        most curious case is subhash bose. he was no HN, but he wasn’t left leaning either. he was enamored with european fascism, but it is unclear how deep his conviction was. his political leanings have never been explored in detail. wish someone would write an article on this on BP.

        1. Less hindu region.

          U can’t fight ur own ethnic calling. Much like the dravidians and Mallus , bongs are pre disposed to be commies

        2. this is silly talk. A best India would have been a united union. All indic people under one state with aggressively enforced real secularization. India needed an Ataturk. Not more division.

        3. Always, less stronger Asabiya is better than bigger loose Asabiya. Hindu-dom is paying the price of the latter.

          A divided stronger India, or united sick man of Asia , in 47 . What would u have preferred?

  12. I don’t have an intelligent comment to make, but have two questions:

    1. Can someone refresh me on Savarkar’s view on the matter? If possible with some context on what the understanding of the public and of Savarkar himself was about what was really happening in Germany.

    2. Recently Taleb said that Borat was one of the most racist movies and that the left was hypocritical in combining aggressive deplatforming of racially politically incorrect talk involving certain groups on one hand and being entirely fine with Borat on the other. What do y’all (in particular Razib) think? Can that shed any light on how westerners can’t be too bothered to correct the perceptions about Hindu nationalism pushed by a tiny ultra-progressive minority (and helped by the extraordinary Hindu ability to make self-incriminatingly bad arguments in defense)?

    1. On (1) Savarkar held contradicting positions on WW2 Germany-Jew questions. First was the apparent lack on information during the whole war. Gandhi and Bose who were all opposites of Savarkar held similar views. Once the war was over, Savarkar supported the creation of Israel, and was the only public figure to do so. So did he just switch from Nazi to Zionist?

      In India even today Hitler is seen as some sort of nationalistic figure EVEN within the non Hindutva crowd. India doesn’t have anti Semitism, because Indians don’t really understand what Semitism means. But again who will make all this nuances clear to our SJW Brahmins and their woke overlords?

      1. Thank you. I made some casual searches, and what you write does seem very plausible, though I would also appreciate it if someone has a comprehensive take.

  13. “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? ”

    Are figures from pre-modern history really being judged as being illiberal based on having slaves? Christianity was fine with slavery as an institution from St Paul telling slaves to be obedient to their masters up until the early nineteenth century when pro-slavery interests in the UK still had substantial backing from clergymen and figures like the Duke of Wellington, Canning and Horatio Nelson. Other than people with an axe to grind with Islam I have not heard much critique of the Prophet having sexual relations with his concubines. It was a well-established custom of the time. For Thomas Jefferson to profit from slavery is a different issue.

    1. @Ali

      Your comment is bog-standard sophism.

      Mohamed, unlike Jefferson or other dead people, is specially plead for his moral example – not just for the shitty medieval times he lived in but for all times (to present day). That is why his paedophilia (or other dirty bits) needs more not less scrutiny.

      If Muslims didn’t go on about what a paragon of virtues the man is and how he was chosen to be the spokesman for god and stuff, your comment about applying standards of the time would fit.

      1. Lol, hope you had fun grinding your axe. Name any pre-modern religious or spiritual figure who was known to have said slavery was an abomination and proscribed it. Ashoka is the only one I know of, followed by Baba Farid and Guru Nanak. Even then Buddhism regulated slavery in most places, it did not abolish it.

        1. @Ali

          Name any pre-modern religious or spiritual figure

          You answered the charge of sophistry with whataboutism.

          Who cares about Buddha etc, when the topic of discussion is the prophet of Islam. The question is whether mohamed is specially plead for as a moral paragon for the 21st century. If he is, as Muslims keep reminding us, he must be measured by 21c standards.

          And if Buddhists or Hindus go on about Buddha or Krishna being these great moral law givers relevant for all times and ages, they become fair game too. Sorry mate but that’s how it is.

          1. Well, if you want to judge someone by a ridiculous standard and then deemed them to have failed that is up to you.

          2. It isn’t ridiculous when Muslims say Koran and Mohammed and perfect and will be perfect for all of time and an example of life to follow.

            Actually, in regards to sexual slavery, raping minors, conquest, and killing kaffirs, ISIS did a pretty good job imitating him. They were true Muslims in that sense.

  14. If there are pro-Hindu people reading this comment thread, they would do well to learn the rhetorical tools in Ali Choudhury’s comment above.

    Razib’s question was:

    “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? ”

    In response, Ali Choudhury is clever enough to not directly answer this question, instead he says that the prophet should not be condemned because, wait for it – having slaves is usually exempted by convention:

    Are figures from pre-modern history really being judged as being illiberal based on having slaves? Christianity was fine with s…Other than people with an axe to grind with Islam I have not heard much critique of the Prophet having sexual relations with his concubines.

    So the idea is to pretend to be talking about generalities on historical conventions that support a lenient interpretation to the side you want to support – tacitly supporting the side in **favor** of whom a double standard has been alleged, but avoiding a formal commitment so that you don’t owe an answer when the other side is stung by the unsaid implication.

    On the plus side, most pro-Hindu people are too stupid to even notice that there is an unsaid implication here. If they can learn to be a tenth as devilishly clever, the world will respect them more.

    1. “ChataraiE kinai na paya “

      Two wrongs don’t make right- 40 million slaves today— fix this – zero tolerance for usery abuse of agricultural labour to point of forcing vegetaryan bloodlines to murder quadruped-
      – discuss reparations after slavery is extinct.
      Power of now is just words- do something now to end torture slavery –
      Every adept condemns borders – abuse of AfPakHind labour, weaponization of lust – torture – siccing negri chinky wog (illiterate wog lacking translucent skin troweled on foundation what a stupid word – Atman is foundation) onto Dharmik population at Anglosphere- these are fraud Buddhist poseurs-
      Socalled euroWhite stink more as they age from a distance – it’s disgusting how poorly these so-called whites age— AfPakHind indigenous ancient Aryan fair skinned age gracefully and do not stink at any age — their “white” vaunted technology raw knowledge is Bengal origin Bengal is black – colonial zogAngrez abducted Brahmin for knowledge at colonial time – esoteric truths picked up from adepts at AfPak and never is credit given to RigVedic homeland Afghanistan instead they torture our elders girlfolk – extinction of wogzog is good – hindjews are complicit in this torture of AfPakHind- it is repulsive breed we see in nasal angle — lack of translucent skin shows millennia of eating pigs and indiscriminate bastards birth at unjust wars –
      “White” inverted comma because their hearts r pitch black – fair skin of AfPakHind is superior – objectively so- trailer trash cant compete with Asia’s finest – monolid is insectoid not Asian

  15. Anti-Hindutva is not that dominant in the West as people think. Besides Hinduism has a very positive image as well, Yoga and spirituality for example. It is Hindutvas who can only accept a perfect image of Hinduism, who have a problem, they have created a false narrative in their head and any criticism of that narrative and you are bombarded with childish, angry responses.
    Also, many western liberals are quite pro-Islam, any criticism of Islam or behaviour of Muslims in the West and you are attacked as an Islamophobe. The Western (especially European and Australian) left strangely see the Muslims as their allies, they also see homosexuals as their allies. Does not make sense, but the Western left is driven by vicious hatred for the traditional West. So Hindutva attacking Muslims in India will not be looked at well by the Western leftards.
    As far as Indians in the West, most seem to be anti-Trump but very pro-Modi. It again does not make sense but a lot of human behaviour is irrational and selfish.

    1. “As far as Indians in the West, most seem to be anti-Trump but very pro-Modi. It again does not make sense..”.

      That is either incredibly naive, or you are goading people. Look up “Overton window” for one thing.

    2. Trump is a derp.

      Modi, whatever else can be said about him, is not a derp.

      That’s why I’m anti-Trump and pro-Modi. I’m very consistent in my “support people who are not derps” ideology.

  16. @Ali

    // if you want to judge someone by a ridiculous standard //

    Except it is not my standard but one of Muslims’ making when they special plead for Mohamed. I’m happy to give him a pass for being a medieval Arab chappie who didn’t know better 🙂

    You can either have your prophet’s specially-plead status and have him judged (or mocked) for it or you can stop the special pleading and get him a free pass. Choice is really yours.

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