Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ashis Nandy, “The Politics of Secularism and The Recovery of Religious Tolerance”

Ashis Nandy, “The Politics of Secularism and The Recovery of Religious Tolerance” in Secularism and Its Critics, ed. Rajeev Bhargava (Delhi: Oxford University Press: 1998), 321-344.

SUMMARY: His goal is to expose how the Western idea of religious tolerance and secularism used by Indian intellectuals and the middle class support their religious violence (321-322). He first describes 4 trends that have taken place in India since WWII. 1) The separation of faith and ideology in religions (322-323); 2) contrasting Indian religions to Western values (323-324); 3) secularism says that Indian religion and culture opposes religious tolerance and modernity (324); and 4) secularism imposes an idea of a singular (as opposed to plural) view of self, which is a Christian idea as well (324-325). Also, there have developed 2 meanings of the word secularism: one is separation of religion from other aspects of the state, one is accepting the good aspects of all religions and its involvement in the state (326-330). Gives 4 reasons why secularism has failed (331-334). Describes 3 responses to secularism in India (334-337). Criticizes moderns/secularism for “hijacking” old religiously tolerant leaders, and not being able to prevent religious violence (337-338). Says moderns have pathological psychologies (340). And whoever supports secularism or western concepts thus supports violence (342-343). His solution is to have a Gandhian view of religion (344).

321-in the “post-colonial structures of knowledge in the third world [there] is a peculiar form of imperialism of categories. Under such imperialism, a conceptual domain is sometimes hegemonized by concept produced and honed in the West, hegemonized so effectively that the original domain vanishes from our awareness. Intellect and intelligence become IQ, the oral cultures become the cultures of the non-liberate or the uneducated, the oppressed become the proletariat, social change becomes development. After a while, people begin to forget that IQ is only a crude measure of intelligence and someday someone else may think up another kind of index to assess the same thing: that social change did not begin with development dies a natural or unnatural death.”

THESIS:-“…I seek to provide a political preface to the recovery of a well-known domain of public concern in South Asia, ethnic and especially religious tolerance from the hegemonic language of secularism popularized by the Westernized intellectuals and middle classes to religious tolerance earlier, has increasingly become a cover for the complicity of the modern intellectuals and (322) the modernizing middle class of South Asia in the new forms of religious violence that have entered the Asian scene. These are the forms in which the state, the media, and the ideologies of national security, development, and modernity propagated by the modern intelligentsia and the middle classes play crucial roles.”, but first he describes “four trends that have become clearly visible in South Asia during this century but particularly after the Second World War.”

322-“The first and the most important of these trends is that each religion in our part of the world has been split into two: faith and ideology. Both are inappropriate terms but I give them in this article, specific private meanings to serve my purpose. By faith I mean religion as a way of life, a tradition that is definitionally non-monolithic and operationally plural. I say ‘definitionally’ because, unless a religion is geographically and culturally confined to a small area, religion as a way of life, linked by a common faith having some theological space for heterogeneity.”
“By ideology I mean religion as a subnational, national or cross-national identifier of populations contesting for or protecting non-religious, usually political or socio-economic interests. Such religions-as-ideologies usually get identified with one or more texts which, rather than the ways of life of the believers, then become the final identifiers of the pure forms of the religions. The texts help anchor the ideologies in something seemingly concrete and delimited and in effect provide a set of manageable operational definitions.”

-“These two categories are not mutually exclusive; they are like two axes on which could be plotted the state of contemporary religions. One way of explaining the difference between the two is to conceive of ideology as something that, for individuals and people who believe in it, needs to be constantly protected and faith as something that the faithful usually expect to protect them. For a faith always includes a theory of transcendence and usually sanctions the experience of transcendence and usually sanctions the experience of transcendence, whereas an ideology tends to bypass or fear theories and experiences of transcendence, except when they could be used for secular purposes.” [PROB: these cats are not self-evident and are very problematic—these ideas are not so clearly separated by people and ideologies existed by rulers before the West came, and better travel and communications technology could have just made it more visible now, plus Nandy doesn’t cite any sources for this]

-“The modern state always prefers to deal with religious ideologies rather than with faiths. It is wary of both forms of religion but it (323) finds the ways of life more inchoate and hence, unmanageable, even though it is faith rather than ideology that has traditionally shown more pliability and catholicity. It is religion-as-faith that prompted 200,000 Indians to declare themselves to be Mohammendan Hindus in the census of 1911; and it was the catholicity of faith that prompted Mole-Salam Girasia Rajput to traditionally have two names for every member of the community, one Hindu and one Muslim. [cf Lokhandwala “Indian Islam: Composite Culture and Interpretation” New Quest march-April 1985 (50) pp. 87-101] It is religion-as-ideology, on the other hand, that prompted a significant proportion of the Punjabi-speaking Hindus to declare Hindi as their mother tongue, thus underlining the differences between Sikhism and Hinduism and sowing the seeds for the creation of a new minority. Likewise, it is religion-as-ideology that has provided a potent tool to the Jamat e Islam: to disown the traditional, plural forms of Islam in the Indian subcontinent and disjunct official religion from everyday life, to produce a pre-packaged Islam for Muslims uprooted and decultured by the processes of engineered social change in the region.”

*323-2nd: “…during the last two centuries or so, there has grown a tendency to view the older faiths of the region through the eyes of post-medieval European Christianity and its various offshoots—such as the masculine Christianity associated with nineteenth century missionaries like Joshua Marshman and William Carey in South Asia or its mirror image in the orthodox modernism vended by the likes of Frederich Engels and Thomas Huxley. Because this particular Eurocentric way of looking at faiths gradually came to be associated with the dominant culture of the colonial states in the region, it subsumes under it a set of the colonial states in the region, it subsumes under it a set of clear polarities: centre versus periphery, true faith versus its distortions, civil versus primordial, and great traditions versus local cultures.”

*-“It is a part of the same story that in each of the dyads, the second category is set up to lose. It is also a part of the same story that, once the colonial concept of state was internalized by the societies of the region through the nationalist ideology, in turn heavily influenced b the Western theories of state and statecraft [cf Chatterjee Nationalist Thought…], the nascent nation-states of the region took upon themselves the same (324) civilizing mission that the colonial states had once taken upon themselves vis-à-vis the ancient faiths of the subcontinent.”

324-“Third, the idea of secularism, an import from nineteenth century Europe into South Asia, has acquired immense potency in the middle-class cultures and state sectors of South Asia, thanks to its connection with and response to religion-as-ideology. Secularism has little to say about cultures—it is definitionally ethnophobic and frequently ethnocidal, unless of course cultures and those living by cultures are willing to show total subservience to the modern nation-state and become ornaments or adjuncts to modern living—and the orthodox secularists have no clue to the way a religion can link up different faiths or ways of life according to its own configurative principles.”

-“To such secularists, religion is an ideology in opposition to the ideology of modern statecraft and, therefore, needs to be contained. They feel even more uncomfortable with religion-as-a faith claiming to have its own principles of tolerance and intolerance, for that claim denies the state and middle-class ideologies of the state the right to be the ultimate reservoir of sanity and the ultimate arbiter among different religions and communities. [note #3 says hes unsure about using the word tolerance “because it itself is a product of the secular world-view”] This denial is particularly galling to those who see the clash between two faiths merely as a clash of socioeconomic interests, not as a simultaneous clash between conflicting interests and a philosophical encounter between two metaphysics. The Westernized middle classes and literati of South Asia love to call such differences as liabilities and as sources of ethnic violence.”

-“Fourth, the imported idea of secularism has become increasingly incompatible and, as it were, uncomfortable with the somewhat fluid definitions of the self with which many (325) live. [cultural and psychological definitions, cf Roland “Psychoanalysis in India and Japan”] Such a self, which can be conceptually viewed as a configuration of selves, simultaneously shapes, invokes, and reflects the configurative principles of religions-as-faiths. It also happens to be a negation of the modern conception of selfhood acquired partly from the Enlightenment West and partly from a rediscovery of previously recessive elements in Indian traditions. [PROB: doesn’t idfy sources for this, and takes for granted an “Enlightenment” idea of self (kantian, Hegelian?)] Religion-as-ideology, working with the concept of well-bounded, mutually exclusive religious identities, on the other hand, is more compatible with and analogous to the definition of the self as a byproduct of secularization.” [cf Miller’s “theses on the question of religion in India”, a conference paper], and “secularism has no inkling of this distinct, though certainly no unique, form of self-definition…because secularism is, as T. N. Madan puts it, a gift of Christianity…” [PROB: he’s saying Protestant Xnty can’t accommodate multiple identities at once—and gives no support]

326-“I call myself an anti-secularist because I feel that the ideology and politics of secularism have more or less exhausted their possibilities.”; thee are 2 meanings of word “secularism” in India: a dictionary one and “a non-standard local meaning which, many like to believe, is typically and distinctively Indian or South Asian (as we shall see below, it also has a Western tail, but that tail is now increasingly vestigial).”; the first meaning “chalks out n area in public life where religion is not admitted…Implicit in the ideology is the belief that managing the public realm (327) is a science that is essentially universal, that religion, to the extent it is opposed to the Baconian world-image of science, is an open or potential threat to any modern polity.”; “In contrast, the non-Western meaning of secularism revolves around equal respect for all religions. This is the way it is usually put by public figure. Less crudely stated, it implies that while the public life may or not be kept free of religion, it must have space for a continuous dialogue among religious traditions and between the religious and the secular—that, in the ultimate analysis, each major faith in the region includes within it an in-house version, of other faiths both as an internal criticism and as a reminder of the diversity of the theory of transcendence.”

327-“Recently, Ali Akhtar Khan has drawn attention to the fact that George Jacob Hoyoake, who coined the word secularism in 1850, advocated a secularism accomadative of religion, a secularism that would moreover emphasize diversities and coexistence in the matter of faith. His contemporary, Joseph Bradlaugh, on the other hand, believed in a secularism that rejected religion and made science its deity. [cf Ahmed “Muslims and Boycott Call” The Times of Indian Society 14 jan 1987] Most non-modern Indians…pushed around by the political and cultural forces unleashed by colonialism still operating in Indian society, have unwittingly opted for the accommodative and pluralist meaning while India’s Westernized intellectuals have consciously opted for the abolition of religion from the public sphere.” [PROB: he’s comparing common people to a very small group—and are there some non-westernized intellectuals who support the second def—because he says politicisans do , so they prolly have intellectuals to support them]

-“…Gandhi obviously had this [second] adulterated meaning in mind on the few occasions when he seemed to plead for secularism. This is clear from his notorious claim that those who thought that religion and politics could be kept separate, understood neither religion nor politics.” And this is the idea that is “more compatible with the meaning a majority of Indians” have for secularism

-the first meaning “has dominated India’s middle-class public (328) consciousness, [but] the Indian people and, till recently most practicing Indian politicians, have depended on the accommodative meaning.” [PROB: what is his evidence for the mid classes view?]

328-“The danger is that the first meaning is supported by the accelerating process of modernization in India. As a consequence now, there is a clearer fit between the declared ideology of the modern Indian nation-state and the secularism that fears religions and ethnicities…Associated with this…is a hidden political hierarchy…[which] makes a fourfold classification of the political actors in the subcontinent.”; “At the top of the hierarchy are those who are believers neither in public nor in private”, eg literati and Nehru (though it was later revealed he believed in astrology and tantra); the second are those who don’t believe in public but do in private eg Indira Gandhi and (329) a “sizeable portion of the middle classes”; 3rd believe in public but not in private eg Muhammad Ali Jinnah and D. V. Savarkar, “Such persons can sometimes be dangerous because to them religion is a political tool and a means of fighting one’s own and one’s community’s sense of cultural inadequacy. Religion to them is not a matter of piety.”, “often these heroes invoke the classical versions of their faiths to underplay, marginalize, or even delegitimize the existing ways of life associated with their faiths.”, their goal “has always been to homogenize their cobelievers into proper political formations…” and resist religious diversity and dialogue; (330) 4th are public and private believers, eg Gandhi; the categories aren’t pure in reality and people can change

331- secularism hasn’t led to elimination of religion or greater tolerance in India or anywhere, even England; “…for some hundred and fifty years the Indian have been told that one of the reasons Britain dominated India and one of the reasons why the Indian were colonized was that they were not secular, whereas Britain was.”

*-secularism hasn’t worked because: 1) early political elite was small and so it was relatively easy to screen out people who weren’t secular, but as political representatives have increased in numbers, screening is more difficult; (332) 2) “it has become more and more obvious to a large number of people that modernity is now no longer the ideology of a small minority…These Indians now sense the ‘irreversibility’ of secularization…Much of the fanaticism and violence associated with religion comes today from this sense of defeat of the believers…”; (333) 3) the modern state “guarantees no protection to them against the sufferings inflicted by the state itself in the name of its ideology” and “the state frequently uses its ideology to silence its non-conforming citizens”—while appealing to the believers to keep the public sphere free of religion”; 4) “the proposition that the values derived from the secular ideology of the state would be a better guide to political action and to a less violent and richer political life (in comparison to the values derived from the religious faith) has become even more unconvincing to large parts of Indian society than it was a few decades ago…(334) the culture of the Indian state has very little moral authority left”

334-“every major religious community in the [post-colonial] region has produced three responses” to the idea that the “Western Man rules the world…because of his superior understanding of the relationship between religion and politics.”, “These responses have clear-cut relationship with the splitting of religions described at the beginning of this article; actually, they derive from the split.”

-first response: “to model oneself on the Western Man. Here something more than mimicry of ‘imitation’ is involved. The response consists in a desperate attempt to capture, within one’s own self and culture, traits seen as the reasons for the West’s success on the world state.”, popular response of modern India

335-2nd “is that of the zealot…[whose] sole goal is to somehow defeat the Western man at his own game, the way Japan, for instance has done in economic affairs…what passes as fundamentalism, fanaticism, or revivalism is often only another form of Westernization becoming popular among the psychologically uprooted middle classes in South Asia.”, says an example is in “Pak a Few Steps from Bomb” The Times of India 29 Jan 1987; eg the idea that one can “decontaminate Hinduism of its folk elements, turn it into a classical Vedantic faith, and then give it additional teeth with the aid of Western technology and secular statecraft, so that the Hindus can take on and ultimately defeat all their external and internal enemies, if necessary by liquidating all forms of ethnic plurality within the Hinduism and India, to equal the Western Man as a new Ubermenschen.”, eg justifying a religious text by saying it’s supported by modern science—“Such responses of the zealot are the ultimate admission of defeat. They constitute the cultural bed on which grows the revivalism of the defeated, the so-called fundamental movements in South Asia, based on the zealot’s instrumental concept of religion as an ideological principle for political mobilization and state formation. Modern scholarship sees zealotry as a retrogression into primitivism and as a pathology of traditions. At closer sight it proves to be a by-product and a pathology of modernity. For instance, whatever the revivalist Hindu may seek to revive, it is not Hinduism. The pathetically comic, martial uniform of khaki (336) shorts, which the RSS cadres have to wear, tell it all. Modeled on the uniform of the colonial police, the khaki shorts not only identify the RSS as an illegitimate child of Western colonialism but as a direct progeny of the semiticizing Hindu reform movements under colonialism, Orientalist concepts of ‘proper’ religion, and upon the modern Western concepts of the nation-state, nationality, and nationalism…One begins to judge the everyday life-style of the Hindus, their diversity and heterogeneity negatively, usually with a clear touch of hostility and contempt. Likewise, there is nothing fundamentally Islamic about the fundamentalist Muslims who have to constantly try to disenfranchise the ordinary Muslims as peripheral and delegitimize the religious practice of a huge majority of Muslims the world over as un-Islamic.” And also with Sikhism and sri Lankan Buddhism [PROB: same criticism as earlier: the harsh distinction doesn’t really work, especially given anderson’s ideas on nationalism—they aren’t purely “western” in the sense that all ideas associated with the west must be accepted; plus these groups borrow from their own religious histories which has elements of the things they are doing]

336-3rd “comes usually form the non-modern majority of a society, though to the globalized middle-class intellectuals it may look like the response of a minority. This response does not keep religion separate from politics, but it does say that the traditional ways of life over the centuries, developed internal principles of tolerance, and these principles must have a play in contemporary politics. This response affirms that religious communities in traditional societies have known how to live with one another.”, traditional India tolerated jews, Christians, Zoroastrians [PROB: there were several outside, non-religious factors for this, especially caste which many consider oppressive], religious violence was extremely rare in pre-modern India, but now is increasing to a lot [PROB: ignores oppression by medieval lords, and jews, xns, and zoroas have generally been too small to revolt and there were many fights between hindus, buds, and Muslims], he gives as evidence: “Even now, Indian villages an small towns can take credit for largely having avoided communal riots.” [PROB: I say that what has really changed is urbanization, communications tech, travel speed, and warfare technology], “Obviously, somewhere and somehow, religious violence (337) has something to do with the urban-industrial vision of life and with the political processes the vision lets loose.” [PROB: this is far from “obvious”]

337-“Let us not forget that the great symbols of religious tolerance in India over the last 2000 years have not been modern though the moderns have managed to hijack some of these symbols.”, “For example, when the modern Indians project the idea of secularism into the past, to say that Emperor Ashoka was ‘secular’, they ignore that Ashoka was not exactly a secular ruler; he was a practicing Buddhist even in his public life. He based his tolerance on Buddhism, not secularism. Likewise, the other symbol of interreligious amity in modern India, Emperor Akbar, derived his tolerance not from secularism but from Islam: he believed that tolerance was the message of Islam.”

-“the new forms of religious violence in this part of the world are becoming paradoxically, increasingly secular. The anti-Sikh riots that too place in Delhi in November 1984, the anti-Muslim riots in Ahmedabad in 1985 during the anti-reservation stir and the ‘anti-Hindu’ riots in Bangalore in 1986 they were all associated not so much with religious hatred as with political cost calculations and/or economic greed.”

338-“the Western concept of secularism has played a crucial role in South Asian societies; has worked as a check against some forms of ethnic intolerance and violence, and has contributed to humane governance at certain times and places.” But “Secularism cannot cope with many of the new fears and intolerance of religions and ethnicities, nor provide any protection against the new forms of violence that have come to be associated with such intolerance. Nor can secularism contain those who provide the major justifications for calculated pogroms and ethnocides in terms of the dominant ideology of the state.”

340-creates a table that explains the interaction of the 3 groups of people who react to secularism; table is based on social and psychological studies from the 1940s to 1970s; “The stereotyping, authoritarian submission, sado-masochism, and the heavy use of the ego defenses of projection, displacement and rationalization that, according to some of those studies, went with authorizationianism and dogmatism, have not become irrelevant, as Sudhir Kakar shows once again in a recent Paper. [cf “Some unconscious Aspects of Ethnic…” in Das, Mirrors of Violence] There are resolute demonologies that divide religious communities and endorse ethnic violence, but these have begun to ply a less and less central role in such violence. They have become increasingly one of the psychological markers of those participating in the mobs involved in rioting or in pogrom, not of those planning, initiating, or legitimizing mob-action.”, “This is another way of saying that the planners, instigators, and legitimizers of religious and ethnic violence can be now identified as secular users of non-secular forces or impulses in the society…In the lace of these factors have come a new set of personality traits and defense mechanisms, the most important of which are the more ‘primitive’ defense such as isolation and denial. These defenses ensure, paradoxically, the primacy of cognitive factors in violence over the affective and the conative.” [PROB: uses Western psychology on Asians]

-342-“state-linked internal colonialism uses legitimating core concepts like national security, development, modern science and technology. Any society, for that matter any aggregate, that gives unrestrained play or support to these concepts gets automatically linked to the colonial structure of the present-day world and is doomed to promote violence and expropriation, particularly of the kind directed against the smaller minorities such as the tribals…” [PROB: at what point do u determine someone is using enough western concepts to be considered complicit?]

343-“Secularism has become a handy adjunct to this set of legitimating core concepts.”, helping to legitimize elites’ role as leaders and have monopoly on religious and ethnic tolerance. “To accept the ideology of secularism is to accept the ideologies of progress and modernity as the new justifications of domination, and the use of violence to sustain these ideologies as the new opiates of the masses.”

344-Nandy promotes a Gandhian form of religious tolerance, the Gandhian idea of a sanatani, an “orthodox Hindu” who was also a Muslim, Sikh, and Christian based on this sanatan dharma; Hindu nationalists killed him; and other hindu and non-Hindu secularists dominate India using Gandhi as an example of tolerance, but they forget that you have to accept all faiths


Devika said...

Thanks for this. was useful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks mate!

Akash Singhal said...

Thanks a lot.
I just hope, it helps in tomorrow's end-sem exam. :)