By Harsh Vasani:
While reading about the theocratic political movements in the Middle East, I was in a reverie. It didn’t take me long to notice the striking similarity between the mindset and the worldview of the Islamic fundamentalists and the more domestic Indian right wing, the core of which lies with the Sangh Parivar. While it may be pointed out that the intensity, vigour and the means to achieve their goals between these dogmatic groups differs greatly, at the crux of it lies a mentality that has a lot in common.
A contemporary instance that explicitly establishes the patriarchy and male chauvinism of the Indian right wing is when a group of men attacked hapless women in a Mangalore pub. Sister organisations like the Bajrang Dal too have time and again asserted themselves over women- dictating them not to celebrate the valentines’ day.
Quoting a sevika from Rashtra Sevika Samiti (The RSS’s women’s wing), Neha Dixit observed in Outlook “…Young girls must be stopped from putting their pictures on social networking websites like Facebook. They risk their honour and then their pictures are morphed into nude ones and circulated. They invite blackmailing by this.” The author goes on to ask another volunteer as to what advice the Samiti would give to a victim of wife beating and to this the volunteer responds “Don’t parents admonish their children for misbehaviour? Just as a child must adjust to his/her parents, so must a wife act keeping in mind her husband’s moods and must avoid irritating him. Only this can keep the family together”. On the idea of a divorce, the volunteer further states “our task is to keep the family together, not break it. We tell the women to adjust. Sometimes, we try counsel the husband too.” It is a quite perplexing to see that women too are advocating an attitude which is discriminatory in today’s context.
Compare this with the strict laws regulating the lives of women in countries ruled by the antiquated laws of Sharia. It was not until very recently that Saudi Arabia finally gave its women citizens the right to vote. However, they still can’t drive a car. The situation is much worse in countries like Afghanistan where women cannot leave their homes without being escorted by a male relative and need to be covered from head to toe in a blue cloak called Chador.
The Sangh also shares their abhorrence of western ideas and lifestyle with their counterparts from fundamentalist Islamic organisations. Be it Mohan Bhagwat’s ‘India vs. Bharat’ discourse or the frequent rabble rousing against the western influences in Islamic societies by the Ulema and Mullahs. They see in them a cultural superiority which is threatened by the spread of western ideas and lifestyle. Noteworthy is the juxtaposition of Sangh’s pontification about Swadeshi to the fatwa issued by the Darul Uloom Deoband against Muslims using western products.
Hate for minorities:
It’s a corollary to the fact the fascist right wing organisations in India detest the religious minorities and have time and again indulged in arson and communal riots. Equally acknowledged is the fact that such policies hold water in nations where Islamic fundamentalist organisations either hold power or are influential.
The demolition of Babri Masjid is very much akin to the destruction of statues of Buddha of Bamiyan by the Taliban. Be it Christians and Hindus in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, or Muslims and Christians in India, they all have faced the fascism of these religious extremists
Spreading Religious Nationalism:
While the Islamic fundamentalists transcending geographical lines want to establish a caliphate with an Islamic religious and political leader, their contemporaries talk of a Hindu Rashtra and Hindutva. Intolerance of diversity and treating the ‘others’ as second class citizens is well-known.
Reminiscing the past:
Both of these groups also have one more trait in common: their admiration of the past. They have a flawed sense of a past utopia which had a pious and religious society, which was invariably destroyed by ‘outsiders’.
Feeling of being victimised:
While Islam is a thriving religion, it goes without saying there are places in the world where they are persecuted, be it Palestine or Kashmir. This is used by the fundamentalists as a means to wage a holy war (Jihad).
Meanwhile the Hindu fundamentalists have a fake sense of victimisation within their own country. They often use the persecution of minorities (read: Hindus) in their neighbouring countries, the purported atrocities by the Mughal invaders for centuries and the alleged proselytization undertaken by Christian missionaries as an excuse to degrade them and spread propaganda. The rise of Jihadi terrorism on Indian soil is also one reason to spread panic among the country’s Hindus and paint them as victims of external forces.
It is hence clear that the mindset of fundamentalists shares the same wave lengths which transcend linguistic and geographical barriers.