Pseudo-secularism

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In the Indian context, the term pseudo-secularism is a political term. The term implies that those who claim to be secular are actually not so, but are anti-Hindu. The Hindu nationalist politicians accused of being "communal" use it as a counter-accusation against their critics. Pseudo-secularism is the argument that Indian secularism is not real secularism as understood and developed in the West.

Quotes[edit]

  • When we consider “secularism” as an intellectual movement rather than as a juridical concept, “secularism” means that religion is treated as a human construct rather than the product of a divine revelation. It implies a frank and critical investigation of the claims of religion. In this respect, the failure and dishonesty of Indian secularism is even more radical. Its discourse on religion is extremely and wilfully superficial. It shields from criticism even the most obscurantist religious beliefs or institutions, provided they are non-Hindu (and even in attacking Hinduism, its criticisms of even legitimate targets tend to be crassly superficial).
  • Likewise, no discussion is opened against the denunciation of the "secular intellectuals" as "alienated pseudo-secularists full of contempt for the true Hindu culture", though the concept "pseudo-secular" is central to the whole controversy, and proves to be entirely valid when you consider that those "secularists" defend all kinds of religious discrimination, e.g. religion-based civil codes, against the genuinely and quintessentially secular system of equality of all citizens before the law regardless of their religion.
  • For half a century, all official statements of the BJP and its predecessor Jana Sangh have emphasized that the party does not want to "transform India from the secular democracy its founders envisioned 55 years ago into a Hindu religious state", but that, on the contrary, it wants genuine secularism. Rather than being a hollow slogan, this position is articulated in the form of precise proposals for reform of an impeccably and undeniably secularist nature. Thus, the proposed abolition of the special status of Kashmir (Art. 370 of the Constitution) is nothing but the abolition of a religion-based privilege: no Hindu-majority state enjoys the special privileges accorded to Muslim-majority Kashmir. Likewise, any genuine secularist would abolish the existing anti-Hindu legal discriminations in matters of temple and school management and the subsidizing or taxing of pilgrimages.
  • When we want to understand a social problem, we need a language capable of expressing the data and underlying concepts describing the problem. In India, political incidents frequently pit Hindu nationalism, or even just plain Hinduism and plain nationalism, against so-called "secularism". In practice, this term denotes a combine of Islamists, Hindu-born Marxists, Christian missionaries and americanized adepts of consumerism who share a hatred of Hindu culture and Hindu self-respect. What passes for secularism in India is often the diametrical opposite of what goes by the same name in the West.
  • Indian secularism is systematically dishonest in its assessment of the religions hostile to Hinduism.
  • In India, however, "secularism" has acquired a wholly different meaning. Ever since the term was propagated by Jawaharlal Nehru, being an Indian secularist does not require you to reject theocracy and the intrusion of Religion into politics. On the contrary, every obscurantist in India swears by "secularism". The word's effective Meaning has shifted to a concern quite unknown to its European coiners, viz, the struggle against Hinduism.
  • It is a different matter that the hollow and crassly superficial Ideology of Nehruvian secularism is secure in its power position because of the absence of credible challengers. With a political opposition claiming to be "positive secularists" and "genuine secularists", India's official "pseudo-secularism" has no one to fear.
    • Elst, Koenraad, The Problem with Secularism (2007)
  • On the Hindu side then, at least the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, "National Volunteer Corps") could qualify as "communalist"? Certainly, it is called just that by all its numerous enemies. But then, when you look through any issue of its weekly Organiser, you will find it brandishing the notion of "positive" or "genuine secularism", and denouncing "pseudo-secularism", i.e. minority communalism.
    • Elst, K. in : India's only communalist. A short biography of Sita Ram Goel [1]
  • Anyway, his remark that my writing is “controversial” is a statement of a social fact, but is not an evaluation of my work. There is, for instance, nothing controversial about my perfectly logical and factual observation, repeated on many forums, that Indian “secularism” fails the very first test of secularism, viz. by adhering to separate law systems depending on religion. Of course I know that the Indian establishment and its parrots in Western academe swear by this hypocritical situation: treating citizens differently according to their religion yet calling it “secularism”. But what I say is just logic and would be approved by any candid and unforewarned outsider, while the prevalent claim of Indian “secularism” amounts to a defence of vested political interests.
  • Most Western experts start their papers with the assertion: ”India’s secularism is threatened by Hindu nationalism.” That position is not socially controversial, it is the received wisdom, but it is logically controversial and implies the untrue description of the present system as “secular”. It is also logically controversial, in fact untenable, to describe as a “threat to secularism” the BJP, the only party whose manifesto promises the enactment of a Common Civil Code, that definitional cornerstone of secularism, taken for granted in most Western countries.
  • India was declared a “secular, socialist republic” under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency dictatorship, which many vocal secularists supported.
  • Quite the contrary. Secularists when corred often resort to the argument that the word “secularism” happens to have different meanings in Europe and India. I however maintain that “secularism” has only one real meaning, that this meaning was already firmly established before the word came to be used in India, and that what prevails in India is therefore something else than secularism.
    • Elst, Koenraad. The Wikipedia lemma on "Koenraad Elst": a textbook example of defamation (2013) [2]
  • One of the great surprises which Indian "secularism" offers to people familiar with genuine secularism, is that it totally shuns and even condemns the fundamental questioning of Christian (or Islamic) dogma. For ten years I have closely followed the Indian communalism debate, and not once have I seen a "secularist" mentioning the debunking of Christian beliefs, still the single most revolutionary achievement of the secular study of religions. Even non-essential Christian fairy-tales like the story of apostle Thomas's arrival and martyrdom in South India are repeated ad nauseam in "secularist" pieces on the current missionary crisis.
    • The Problem of Christian Missionaries by K. Elst, 7 June 1999. [3]
  • As a general rule, you can predict what the secularist position on any issue will be once you know what the militant Islamist position is. From justifying terrorism to misrepresenting the Ayodhya evidence, the two are rarely very different.
  • Just as the word deception differs in meaning from its French counterpart déception (= disappointment), the word secularism has a sharply different meaning in Indian English as compared to metropolitan English.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2003). Ayodhya: The finale ; science versus secularism in the excavations debate.
  • When I arrived [in India], the Indian papers were full of the controversy over the ban on Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses. To my surprise, many so-called "secularists", such as Khushwant Singh and M.J. Akbar, supported the ban, which had been promulgated by the "secularist" Congress government. The more I learned about this Indian "secularism", the more it became clear to me that it was often the very opposite of what we in the West in genuinely secular states call "secularism".
  • In the run-up to the Pope's visit to Delhi in 1999, the secularists fell over each other trying to be the loudest and shrillest in denying the "vicious Hindutva propaganda" that the Catholic Church has as its stated goal to convert the whole of India (and the world) to its own belief system... In Europe, the Pope is the scapegoat par excellence of militant secularists and atheists, but in India he is counted among the "secular" alliance (along with the most obscurantist Mullahs, self-described “secularists” whose like-minded Arab colleagues abhor secularism), for he is anti-Hindu and that's the only qualification you need to earn the label "secularist". To the RSS, the secularists are accomplices of the anti-national forces, of Pakistan and the terrorists. That is not incorrect, but to me, they are first of all a bunch of clowns.
    • Elst Koenraad, Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey -- A preliminary reply to Ms. Meera Nanda, In: Elst, K. Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007), chapter 3.
  • Indeed, Muslims outside India openly abhor secularism; those in India only swear by “secularism” because they know that there, the word is used improperly and effectively only means “anti-Hindu”. Not that she drew attention to the fact that “secularism” has a very different meaning to Westerners from what it has come to mean in India. Indian secularists prefer to keep the rest of the world in ignorance about their own dirty little secret, viz. that “secularism” in India often means the very opposite of its normal meaning. When you question an Indian secularist at close quarters, he will try to save his position by explaining that secularism in India happens to mean something different from what it means in the West. But do they tell this to Western audiences?... Westerners’ automatic sympathy for Indian secularism (and against the supposed “theocrats” they hear about) is predicated on the assumption that their own familiar secularism is also present in India, that both are the same. Logic teaches that “a = a”, that a term has the same meaning throughout a reasoning process, so Westerners assume that “secularism” means secularism, and this Indian law professor certainly wasn’t going to pin-prick that illusion.
  • It is characteristic of practically all texts lauding India’s “secularism” that this inconvenient truth is omitted, and secularism is attributed to the unquestionable authority of the Constitution and its supposed author, BR Ambedkar. ... “secular” was a product of the Emergency... The word “secular” was not part of India’s political parlance in the days of the Constituent Assembly, and even the Republic (let alone India itself) was not founded as a “secular” state. On the contrary, the Constituent Assembly through its chairman, BR Ambedkar, explicitly rejected the two S words. India became a “secular socialist” republic under the Emergency dictatorship (1975-77) without proper Parliamentary debate. “Secular” is one of the few words in the Constitution that was enacted without democratic basis, and this is only fitting for a “secularism” which has always and unabashedly been despotic and anti-majority. There may be many things wrong with democracy, but it is not anti-majority. Indeed, that is precisely what is wrong with democracy, according to the secularists.
  • Being naturally despotic, the Nehruvian secularists used precisely this intermezzo [the Emergency dictatorship (1975-77)] to insert “secular, socialist” into the text of the Constitution. The declaration of India as a “secular” republic, without a proper parliamentary debate, is thus the only part of the Constitution that is historically undemocratic. (Ch 30)
  • The iron fist of the attack (the Zarb-e-Mo’min, “strike of the faithful”, as the Pakistani Army once named one of its exercises) is furnished by Christianity and Islam, who mean to expand worldwide and in the process destroy all heathen religions. They have a positive goal, viz. perpetuating and propagating themselves, and their negative goal of digesting or annihilating Hinduism only follows therefrom. This way, they have a very good conscience in doing their work of destruction: it is only meant to clear the way for the true religion. So, they have inner strength, but they also have outer strength: they are huge and very wealthy, being only the Indian arms of two worldwide movements. It is ridiculous that they are called “minorities” at all, yet they carefully cultivate that status, for in the present-day mentality, any majority is deemed overbearing and oppressive. Their foreign roots not only make them very resourceful, they also give them a head-start in developing a coherent strategy with sustainable long-term goals. But this iron fist is clothed in a velvet glove: secularism. Knaves claim and fools believe that this is the Indian instance of the worldwide phenomenon of secularism (separation of religion and politics) originating in the West, but it is not. Thus, Islamic militants who in Arabia would abhor secularism (meaning separation of religion and politics, e.g. democratic law-making separate from what Islam prescribes), emphatically call themselves “secularists” in India. The reason is that in India, the word has a very different meaning: anything that is anti-Hindu. Islamic militants are anti-Hindu, so they indeed qualify as “secularists”. But what animates them is not this profile of secularism but their heartfelt commitment to Islam; and similarly with Christian missionaries, who can rightly call themselves secularists under the Indian definition, though their real commitment is to Christianity. So when we say “secularists”, we don’t usually mean them, we mean the Hindu-born secularists, who genuinely intend to define their uppermost commitment when they call themselves secularists. (Ch 32)
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015
  • Congress-culture politicians and pseudo-secularists should at least inform the minority whose cause they espouse, but to whom they never dare read a lecture, that secularism and fundamentalism are mutually exclusive, and that in the Indian secular state the Muslims cannot practise their fundamentalism. Furthermore, they can also be told that history can no longer be distorted, that it cannot be made the handmaid of politics, and that therefore they need to feel sorry if not actually repentant about the past misdeeds of Muslims.
    • Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8

Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society (1991)[edit]

Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society
  • While secularism is a European import into India, I just don't recognize the secularism practiced in India.
  • In my country, we think that secularism implies the freedom to learn, teach and practice a religion, and also the freedom to reject, abandon and criticize a religion. But in India, those who call themselves secular, combine a Stalinist propensity to ban religious education in (non-minority) schools, or to ban religious TV serials, with a bigoted propensity to ban books that take a critical look at religions. In both cases, they arrogate the right to decide for others what they can see and read, and what not. We think that secularism means : let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred ideas compete. But in India, the favourite slogan of secularists is : Ban it ! Listen here, friends : banning for secularism is like f...ing for virginity.
  • Their justification is that these books and films might hurt feelings and thus disturb communal harmony. Indian secularists declare that a critical or blasphemous book should be banned, because it may offend someone's feelings. Genuine secularists oppose bans because a ban offends our intelligence. And offended it is, by these inflated book-banners who claim the right to decide for us what we can read and what not.
  • Of course, the Hindutva people are right when they call the secularists pseudo-secularists.
  • If secularism means what it really means, as in Europe, then the people who make common cause with Muslim fundamentalists and defend a separate status for a state with a Muslim majority, religion-based personal laws, and religion-based discrimination in education or in temple management, cannot count as secularists. They are pseudo-secularists, and their opponents are genuine secularists.
  • Secularism should be defended in its genuine European sense, against the Stalinist perversion of secularism that still has quite a following in India.
  • You see, the secularists are like the followers of Big Brother in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. When Big Brother has raised the prices, they hold a demonstration to thank him for lowering the prices. And when a Muslim government organizes pogroms against the Hindus, the secularists thank it for keeping communal harmony.
  • In Hindu culture, even in its most unsophisticated popular forms, this focus on individual consciousness is always there. No group prayers, one's religious experience is one's personal affair. Therefore, this concept of leaving religion to the care of the individual, with no authority above him empowered to dictate beliefs or religious practices, which in the West constituted a cultural revolution called secularism, is nothing new to Hindu culture. This is not an idealization but a firm reality : no matter what the "evils of Hindu society" may have been, subjecting the individual's freedom of religion to any public authority is not one of them. No wonder that Voltaire, who strongly opposed the Church's totalitarian grip over men's lives, and may count as one of the ideologues of secularism, mentioned the religions of India and China as a model of how religion could be a free exploration by the individual.
  • The official Hindi term for secularism is dharmanirpekshata, i.e. dharma-neutrality. Critics of Nehruvian secularism say the correct translation would be panthanirpekshata or sampradayanirpekshata, i.e. sect- neutrality.
  • So, the concepts of "dharma" and "religion" overlap only partly. The term dharmanirpekshata becomes a bit absurd or even sinister when it turns out to say "duty- neutrality" or "righteousness-neutrality" (though it applies accurately to the utter corruption in which Nehru's secular socialism has plunged the Indian state). The absurdity really comes out when we translate it as "value-system-neutrality". You just cannot have a polity without a value-system that sustains the unity and integrity of the whole. Even secularism implies something of a value-system.
  • When Sadhvi Ritambhara, a pro-Janmabhoomi campaigner (a cassette of a speech of hers was banned), tells an interviewer: "Politicians appease [the Muslims] at every step, while the Hindus are taken for granted. We can't even teach our children our religion in schools", the interviewer replies : "But this is a secular nation". No, in these circumstances it is not a secular nation. Either secular means anti-religious, and then all religion teaching should be banned from schools, also that of the minorities. Or secular means religiously neutral, and then the state should leave all the religions the same right to impart religious education in schools, including the Hindus. Passing off this communal discrimination as secular, is a very crude lie indeed.

External links[edit]

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