The controversy over a recent “Global Dismantling of Hindutava” conference that aimed at a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the discriminatory anti-Muslim policies of the government and ruling party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra. Modi.
The conference and the responses provided highlight a debilitating deterioration over the past two decades, particularly since September 11, in standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent and constructive debate and allow expression. racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes. to become mainstream.
The organizers of the conference co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted on distinguishing between Hinduism and the ‘Hindutava, the notion of Hinduism according to Mr. Modi. nationalism that allows discrimination and attacks against India’s 200 million Muslims.
The distinction did not impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics accused the conference’s framing of demonstrating a pervasiveness of group thinking in universities and a reluctance to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.
The campaign against the conference appears to have been organized primarily by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, some of which have a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against speakers and their families, prompting some attendees to withdraw from the event.
Opponents of political Islam noted that Western universities had not held a similar conference on the politicization of the faith, although powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt lobbied on Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and their Turkish and Qatari supporters. notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Great Britain.
Academia has probably been reluctant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is much more prevalent than Hinduphobia.
In addition, perceptions of political Islam are much more complex and convoluted. Islam is often confused with political expressions, and interpretations of the faith range from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also bring together groups that adhere to and respect the electoral process and those who advocate violent jihad.
Academics and analysts declared the end of the heyday of political Islam with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim brother, who was elected president in the first and only ballot free and fair Egypt. The alleged swan song of political Islam was even more prominent with this year’s setbacks for two of Tunisia and Morocco’s more moderate Islamist political parties, along with hints that Turkey may restrict the activities of operating Islamists. in exile from Istanbul.
A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its inability to place Hindutava in a larger context.
This context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of groups of various ethnic and religious communities since the September 11 attacks by Osama bin Laden against New York and Washington.
The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the world of other major religions.
These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized evangelism, and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.
The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.
Academic Cynthia Miller-Idriss’ assessment of the impact of Al Qaeda attacks on the United States is also true for India or Europe.
“In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped US politics in a way that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to the peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism and Christian nationalism: As dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have come out of the ‘a feverish dream of the far right,’ she added. Miller-Idriss says.
“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries were teeming with precisely the fears that the far right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.
The comparison of the politically charged and ultra-conservative militant nationalist expressions of various religions takes on additional significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.
Academic Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never embraced the Western principle of separation of state and church.
Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India is part of a global trend that amalgamates a dominant religious identity with a national identity.
Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares white nationalist activists to Islamist activists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and Islamist activists.
“Feeling of victimization of militant Islamists […] is similar to that of their white nationalist counterparts in that [it] is built and exploited to justify their violence … The two target each other – and exclusively – America in an effort to claim the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a white ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate, ”writes Ms. Kamali. .
Likewise, the defeat of a superpower by the Taliban has energized Islamist militants, as well as Hindutava supporters, with Islamophobic accounts told by Mr. Modi’s supporters who have gained ground with the claim that the India was surrounded by Muslim states harboring religious extremists.
“Modi is essentially helping recruit … jihadist groups by taking such a tough and repressive line against the Islamic community in India, which is now being forced into repression,” said Douglas London, CIA counterterrorism chief. for the South. and Southwest Asia until 2019.