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.