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Hindu Nationalism and Islamist Radicalism in South Asia

CGP’s Kamran Bokhari talks with CGP Senior Fellow Muqtedar Khan about the rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims amid the rise of right-wing Hindu nationalism in India.  

Khan points out that Hindu nationalism has been a factor in India for a long time. However, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power, Hindu nationalists have become newly emboldened. Khan says the BJP is a front for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh, which he calls the Hindu version of the Muslim Brotherhood. As part of this wave of Hindu nationalism, “cow vigilantes” beat up or lynch Muslims for eating beef, nationalists are trying to erase all traces of Muslim influence on Indian culture, and India’s Muslims bear the brunt of national frustrations about the BJP’s failures and about the transnational jihadist threat.

Within India, the Muslim minority amounts to about 160 million people, which Khan says is like having an entire Indonesia within India. By marginalizing this large minority group, the BJP is undermining its own goal of building a strong India. Overall, Indian society is tremendously tolerant, and Indian Muslims are remarkably unradicalized, Khan says. The wave of Hindu nationalism that seeks to keep Muslims living in what Khan calls third-world conditions could eventually harm India’s reputation as a democracy. Moreover, Khan says, Hindu nationalists tend to see the United States and Europe as colonizing cultures. If the BJP and/or RSS continues to gain influence in India, it could make Washington uncomfortable about strengthening ties with India. However, Khan says that a strong business relationship between the United States and India could give moderate voices in the Indian diaspora more influence over Delhi’s policies.

In the meantime, Khan believes that the rise of Hindu nationalism will not lead to radicalization among India’s Muslims. Though violence could break out, he said he does not foresee large numbers of Indian Muslims deciding to join Daesh or al Qaeda. Khan says his biggest concern is that by fomenting unrest between Hindus and Muslims, the Indian government will lose focus on its opportunity to become a strong and powerful state. 

The views expressed herein are the guest’s and do not necessarily reflect those of CGP.

Image Credit: caravandaily.com