On the surface, it may seem that the Hindu right dislikes Islam to the core. They talk about how their great past was ruined by invasions, and how Muslims are taking over India etc etc. But the response to the removal of Wendy Doniger’s book suddenly revealed to me what I should have seen earlier. These guys are star struck in admiration for the way Islam conducts itself around the globe and are crying out to emulate its ways.
The most common reaction by hindutva types to the withdrawal of the book is that the author would never have dared to write a similar book about Islam. That instead of Hindu gods and goddesses, had she written about Mohammed instead, the government would have banned the book, she would have gotten death threats, and in general no liberal would have criticized the Islamic radicals (false of course but we’re talking delusions here, not facts). Furthermore, they say that she wouldn’t have been able to do this in Pakistan or Iran and it’s only because it’s India that she has the temerity to publish such stuff.
All this would have been ok if the follow up observation had been “See, this is why India is awesome. Islamic countries are fundies and this is proof that India is a free state”. But no, the general mood is one of wistful longing for the kind of censorship and violence exhibited by Mullahs and fatwa announcers. This points to a secret admiration of the way fundamental Islam works despite their claims of despising it. A very passive aggressive type of reaction. They don’t openly say “We want Hinduism to be like Islam” but they fervently wish it was.
This points to a secret admiration of the way fundamental Islam works despite their claims of despising it.
Mind you, the response could have been “Let her say what she wants about Hinduism. India is a free country. But we also demand that books offending Muslims like the Satanic verses etc be allowed too”. This would be the way you expect people to respond if they truly had a problem with how Islam deals with free speech. But no, I sense a grudging admiration. It’s as if there’s a race to determine which is the most savage and intolerant behavior, and Hindus are upset that fanatical Islam is winning and wish desperately to catch up.
Another delusion that frequently pops up is that when books derogatory to Islam are banned, no one protests. I have no idea how this idea gained traction. Who doesn’t remember the cry and furor when Salman Rushdie was deterred from attending the Jaipur literary fest? The papers were full of it for weeks. Opinion pieces, blog posts and articles flooded the Internet in outrage. I don’t remember even one person speaking up in favor of the restriction! The outrage was far greater in fact than the current opposition to Penguin’s move to take Wendy Doniger’s book off the shelves. In fact, I actually see some support from various sections for the move.
Many hardcore supporters of Hinduism are in a tight spot. On the one hand they hate Islam with their very being and are yet envious of its status in the world. They’re jealous of the fact that people tiptoe around it. They want Hinduism to also be similarly treated. To them, it’s a sign of strength in Islam that people are threatened with violence when they criticize it. They don’t see the cringing weakness and pathetic lack of self respect that generates the outrage. They don’t realize that a religion and a people who get upset over mere words are weak. Just a breath is enough to shake the institution to its foundations. If that’s not weak I don’t know what is.
Get a grip right wingers. Try and see through the fake strength of radical Islam. Don’t be jealous of the way it handles dissent. Instead, position India as a place that’s the antithesis of what you hate. Show India to be a place that people can point to with admiration and pride and say “Look – this is what India is like. A free place where the majority religion is not threatened by books and words and thoughts. This is precisely what global Islam is not“.
Isn’t that preferable to being offended all the time?