History of Jihad and “Islamophobia”

It is a review of the book ‘History of Jihad’. The review is penned by Koenraad Elst. This review brings out succintly the psycho-military nitty-gritty of Jihad. This  psycho-military system is synchronously embedded in its sacred books as its body and soul and has been excellently practiced for 1400 years of its history by its military commanders in every place they planted the flag of Islam.

This psycho-military apparatus has an inbuilt mechanism of command and control: No one has the option to doubt the doctrine (blesphamy) and the violater has to pay the price with his life. There is an entry point – with will or against one’s will – for joining the camp but has no exit point to leave the camp. It has an inbuilt superb pool of incentives – sex, wealth and lording over ‘Dhimmi’ slaves – for all those who participate in this venture. The Commander-in-Chief (Caliph), local commaders (Ghazis) and rank soldiers (Muzahids) are to get in this war – and divide among them an equal share of – women and young boys (Gilma) as sex slaves; and they are likewise to equally share the war booty (Mal-e-Ganimat).

These are the material advantages in joining the camp – and continue remaining there – that satisfy ‘this-worldly’ desires of human beings. But this apparatus provides something uniquely more: It promises to make an extraordinary high quality of sex available in the world hereafter to all those who participate in the effort (72 virgins). Even the most ferocious psycho-military doctrines that we have known so far in this world – Nazism, Fascism, Communism – lack this unique incentive in their body.

This apparatus makes available a cultural ambience, which is militarily advantegeous to its campaign: Deceiving and making the enemy camp lull by telling lies (Taqia) of the “Smile on the face and contempt in the heart” fame.

This review also highlights the strange mentality in our own times even of those people around the world who had suffered in the past the pains of this Jihad. They are entrapped in this mentality by inventing terms like ‘Islamophobia’, ”religious hate-mongers’ etc. themselves, which appear magnanimous and well-intentioned but in reality betray their suicidal tendency. It is a new variety of mental illness gripping large part of humanity, who love to see merit in their tormentor. It is something that may be termed Crowed Stockholm Syndrome.

The image of the book reviewed:

About the reviewer:

Koenraad Elst (°Leuven 1959) distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. After a few hippie years, he studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University, he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher, he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. He also published on the interface of religion and politics, correlative cosmologies, the dark side of Buddhism, the reinvention of Hinduism, technical points of Indian and Chinese philosophies, various language policy issues, Maoism, the renewed relevance of Confucius in conservatism, the increasing Asian stamp on integrating world civilization, direct democracy, the defence of threatened freedoms, and the Belgian question. Regarding religion, he combines human sympathy with substantive skepticism.


Policy-makers faced with a major challenge, one that their successors may still have to deal with if they themselves don’t solve it, will first of all need to know the nature of that challenge. An urgent challenge for the contemporary world leaders is Jihād, literally “effort (in the way of Allah)”, effectively “Islamic war against the Infidels”.  For their use, and for everyone’s, Robert Spencer has written a remarkably complete account of the origins of the Jihad doctrine and the highlights of its applications in history. It is aptly titled History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS (Post Hill Press, Nashville/New York, 2018) and dedicated to “the untold millions of victims of jihad”.

This well-written and fully referenced book is a mighty thriller, with even more suspense than most. After some turns in the plot, from Islamic expansion to Islamic decline and back to Islamic expansion, and from Unbeliever defeats to Unbeliever resistance and ascendancy on to Unbeliever self-undoing, it stops before the ending. We have yet to see if jihad will ultimately prevail. Even if it won’t, it seems likely to cause us lots more trouble before it goes.

The roots of Jihad are traced to the details of Mohammed’s career, as given in the Islamic source texts. (Spencer cautions beforehand that those chronicles do not live up to modern historiographical standards, and that a contemporary line of scholarship tries to reconstruct what truly happened behind the conserved version; but this “real” history is as yet tentative and without any influence on what Muslims believe or what Islamic law is based on, which still is the traditional account.) The whole array of techniques of conquest and subjugation that we know from jihadi history down to the present was already there: murders at night, executions at dawn, open battles at noon; enslavement, extortion, plunder, deportation, treachery, stratagems, broken promises, terror.

Nonetheless, I want to insist on a fact that might easily get overlooked in this catalogue of violence: Mohammed was no sadist, he just wanted his critics and enemies surrendered or dead, he didn’t bother to make them suffer. In general, Mohammed didn’t care for the pleasure of seeing his enemies in protracted pain, but kept his eye on the ultimate goal: surrender by all his enemies to his pretence of prophethood, i.e. world conquest. An exceptional but prominent case of torture, described in Spencer’s book, is when a man was asked where he had hidden his treasure. To loosen his tongue, the Prophet had him tortured, but when he refused to give in, he was just cleanly beheaded.

All these practices reappeared in ISIS warfare, and have made headlines worldwide as titillatingly shocking, though the media mostly kept their Islamic motive and prophetic precedent out of sight. Even there, torture was not routine: people were just beheaded. (Not that this justifies anything: in Auschwitz too, people were ‘only’ gassed, a swift and bloodless death.) The downed Jordanian pilot was burned to death only because his bombs had inflicted similarly excruciating deaths on civilians; it was not the general rule. Mohammed observed a certain economy of violence: no song need be made about dead unbelievers, but his real goal was not killing them, that only came when the ‘need’ arose. Instead, what he wanted most of all, what he really craved, was people’s acceptance of his personal delusion that he was Allah’s own unique spokesman. He really was a Mohammedan, as are his followers, though they abhor the term.

The prophet’s life-work, achieved through jihad, was the conquest of Arabia and the replacement of its multicultural society with a monolithic Islamic dictatorship. This was completed around the time of his death with the expulsion of the remaining Jews around Medina and the Christians of Yemen. Henceforth we would learn whether Jihad was only Mohammed’s whim or a constant of Islamic history. It only took a few months to take away any doubt: most Arabs returned to their native Paganism, some also started following new prophets like Musaylima, but Mohammed’s successor (Caliph) Abu Bakr swiftly came after them and forced them back into Islam.

The second Caliph, Umar, aided by his personal rival but great strategist Khalid bin al-Walid, then started a spectacular conquest of what is now known as the Near East, at the expense of the powerful Sassanian (Persian) and Byzantine empires. His successors would continue the Caliphate’s expansion by conquering North Africa and the entire Persian empire, until the conquest of Spain in 702 and of Sindh (the westernmost province of India, now southern Pakistan) in 712. In Western Europe, the conquest ended when an incursion into northern France was stopped by Charles the Hammer in 732 near Tours. In Spain, a small leftover Christian territory proved enough to start a Reconquistathat would take almost eight centuries.

Everywhere the formula for dealing with the natives was the same: either convert to Islam or accept the subordinate status of Dhimmi with payment of a special toleration tax (jizya). In the case of India, a debate among Islamic jurisconsults would develop about whether Hindus could be accepted as Dhimmis: this status was meant for “People of the Book”, viz. Jews and Christians, not for outright Pagans. Different schools of jurisprudence developed, with the Hanbali school demanding conversion or death, pure and simple; but as the more lenient Hanafi school was to prevail in India, Hindus could, after a bloody period of subjugation, equally settle into the status of third-class citizen or Dhimmi.


In the Subcontinent, fierce Hindu resistance meant that for almost five centuries, the Muslim-controlled territory would remain confined to the northwest, more or less present-day Pakistan. Yet, while conquest was slow, the concomitant massacres and destruction were already impressive. Spencer bases himself on primary sources to sketch the successive episodes of conquest, e.g.:

‘The thirteenth-century Muslim historian Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani, author of the Tabaqat-i Nasiri, a history of Islam’s rise, noted that as Mahmud [Ghaznavi] waged jihad in India, “he converted so many thousands of idol temples into masjids [mosques].” Mahmud broke the idols whenever he could, so as to demonstrate the power of Islam and the superiority of Allah to the gods of the people of India. When he defeated the Hindu ruler Raja Jaipal in 1001, he had Jaipal “paraded about in the streets so that his sons and chieftains might see him in that condition of shame, bonds and disgrace; and that the fear of Islam might fly abroad through the country of the infidels.”’ (p.131)

Or quoting from historian Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Utbi: ‘Then at Mathura, al-Utbi added, “the Sultan gave orders that all the temples should be burnt with naptha and fire, and levelled with the ground.” At Kanauj, the Muslim historian continued, “there were nearly ten thousand temples.… Many of the inhabitants of the place fled in consequence of witnessing the fate of their deaf and dumb idols. Those who did not fly were put to death. The Sultan gave his soldiers leave to plunder and take prisoners.”

Then, at Shrawa,

“the Muslims paid no regard to the booty till they had satiated themselves with the slaughter of the infidels and worshippers of sun and fire. The friends of Allah searched the bodies of the slain for three days in order to obtain booty.…The booty amounted in gold and silver, rubies and pearls nearly to three thousand dirhams, and the number of prisoners may be conceived from the fact that each was sold for two to ten dirhams. They were afterwards taken to Ghazni and merchants came from distant cities to purchase them, so that the countries of Mawaraun-Nahr, Iraq and Khurasan were filled with them, and the fair and the dark, the rich and the poor, were commingled in one common slavery.”’ (p.133)

It is only in 1192 that Mohammed Shihabuddin Ghori and his lieutenants broke through the Hindu defences and in two years’ time conquered the entire territory from Delhi to the Bay of Bengal. They destroyed every Pagan institution they could lay their hands on. The Buddhist university of Nalanda burned for weeks on end, and its inmates were levelled as much as its books and buildings.

Here, Spencer makes a slight mistake: ‘In 1191 and 1192, Muhammad Ghori twice defeated a force of Rajputs led by the Hindu commander Prithviraj Chauhan’. (p.175) No, in the first battle, Prithviraj had been victorious, but had magnanimously set his defeated enemy free upon the promise that he wouldn’t do it again. But next year, Ghori came back, won, and was not that generous to Prithviraj, who was blinded and subsequently killed. The sequence illustrates the perfidiousness of those who have taken Mohammed’s jihad doctrine to heart.

The Ghori blitzkrieg would result in the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526), one of the cruellest oppressive regimes in history, comprising at its height about half of India. But even the succeeding Moghul dynasty, started by Uzbek invaders, never succeeded in conquering all of India. Only in the late 17th century would the pendulum swing back with the rise of the Hindu rebel king Shivaji, whose Peshwa successors would reduce the Moghul empire to a shadow of itself (but then lose out to the British).

Spencer’s diagnosis for almost one thousand years of Muslim advances and Hindu retreat is given during the description of how Muslim warlords formed an alliance in 1565 to defeat the last remaining Hindu power, the Vijayanagar empire: ‘The Hindu resistance was seldom strong or well-organized. The Muslims had superior firepower, better organization, and in most cases, unity. Although there was always considerable internecine jihad between rival Muslim factions, the warring groups could usually unite against the infidels.’ (p.235) Till today, by contrast, Hindus have a hard time uniting.

The narrative repeatedly returns to India until the story of Partition and also that of the Rohingya Muslims. The latter is an almost unbelievable example of how the media story, tearfully commiserating with the poor hapless Muslims, diametrically differs from historical reality, where the Rohingyas have been waging jihad against their Buddhist neighbours since decades.


Ghori’s conquest had been made possible by an inter-Hindu quarrel. Prithviraj Chauhan, king of Delhi, had abducted Samyukta, the daughter of the neighbouring king Jayachandra, with her own cooperation. Romantic songs were composed about Prithviraj’s colourful adventures, but Jayachandra did not see it that way. He invited Ghori, who was glad to oblige this fissure in the Infidel defences. For Jayachandra’s services, Ghori ultimately had him beheaded too.

A similar scenario, Spencer recounts, played out in the conquest of Spain. The king of a remaining Christian enclave in North Africa was angry with the Visigoth king of Spain for having seduced his young daughter, and therefore encouraged the Muslim governor Tariq ibn Ziyad to invade Spain, helping him with strategic information.

The last Byzantine Prime Minister, Lukas Notaras, who was to live through (but die in) the Ottoman conquest of his remainder-empire, had rejected theological concessions to Latin Christianity in exchange for the urgently needed military help: “Better the turban of the Sultan than the tiara of the Pope.” (p.197) Yes, there were reasons not to trust the Popish camp, and people of principle are attached to their distinctive dogmas; but did that outweigh what was to come through jihad? Given the complete destruction of the Byzantine population through either slaughter or slavery, his view can be reckoned as falsified through reality.

Shortly after, Martin Luther would nonetheless repeat this maxim that the Turk was preferable to the Pope:

‘“The Turk is an avowed enemy of Christ. But the Pope is not. He is a secret enemy and persecutor, a false friend. For this reason, he is all the worse!” Luther’s broadside was one of the earliest examples of what was to become a near-universal tendency in the West: the downplaying of jihad atrocities and their use in arguments between Westerners to make one side look worse.’ (p.220-221)

To Luther’s credit, though, his actions failed to match his words, and he supported the Protestant princes who came to Vienna’s rescue against a Turkish siege in 1525.

When the Ottomans besieged Vienna in 1683, they could count on the collaboration of the Hungarian count Emmerich Tekeli, who had accounts to settle with the Habsburgs. Inter-Infidel quarrels have often been exploited by the Jihadis: war is a stratagem and exploiting disunity in the enemy camp is one of the oldest tactics. At any rate, Jihad was a merciless campaign of conquest, and it has been alive since the earliest days of Islam.

Surrender today:

The next period of Islamic conquest was in the 15th-16th century, when the Balkans, Central India, Southeast Asia and parts of Africa largely fell to Islam. But this expansion was, from the late 17th century onwards, followed by stagnation and decline of the Ottoman and Moghul empires. Then followed loss of control over nominally Islamic countries to rising European colonialism, which even triggered increasing doubt about Islam.

Thus, after the French and British saved the Ottomans from a complete rout against Russia in the Crimea war but then forced them to sign a modernising treaty abolishing slavery and dhimmitude, the Ottoman grand vizier Ali Pasha advised the Caliph that the Islamic institution of dhimmitude was actually harmful to the country: ‘Ali Pasha was presaging the subversive idea that Kemal Ataturk would make the basis of his secular Turkish government after World War I: the reason for Turkish failure was Islam, and the only path to its resuscitation required discarding Islam, at least as a political system.’ (p.264) This ought to be revived as a model for Muslims today: the realisation that Islam is backward and ultimately bad for its followers.

But this long decline would, in turn, be followed by another period of expansion: today. This brings us, skipping over interesting chapters on the Ottoman decline, Napoleon in Egypt, the European-enforced and incomplete abolition of slavery, the end of the Moghul empire, the Mahdi uprising, the Armenian genocide, the Jerusalem mufti’s role in the Nazi genocide of the Jews etc., to the modern age. If we take “modern” to be 1970, the process of Westernisation, of an ever-weakening grip of Islam, of bare-headed Muslimas, seemed to be continuing. At that time, European countries thought nothing of importing massive amounts of guest workers from North Africa and Turkey, thinking that Islam had become a harmless folk custom, on its way out just like Christianity was for Europeans. British trade-unions recruited among Pakistanis on a Leftist platform, never seeing a need to even mention Islam. Even the Palestinian struggle against Israel donned the garb of Marxism and flirted with Cuba.

But when you shift “modern” to today, a completely different picture emerges.

In 1979, US president Jimmy Carter relaxed his support to the Shah of Iran, though the latter was besieged by both the Islamic and the Communist opposition. (It was not the first time that the US would betray its friends, ask Chiang Kai-shek, Batista, Van Thieu, Mobutu.) The void was soon filled by the ayatollahs, who promptly eliminated their Leftist allies. From then on, the message went around the world that Islam is the formula for success. After centuries of decline, an ambitious expansion could start.

In the 1980s, US president Ronald Reagan had in good faith appealed to the jihadis to contain Soviet expansionism in Afghanistan, which obtained its immediate goal. In spite of the revolution in Iran, the impression still prevailed among the Western bourgeoisie that Islam had become harmless. But then this collaboration spiralled into a mushroom growth of jihadi initiatives like al-Qaeda, the Taliban, 9/11 and many more recent terror attacks in the West, and ultimately ISIS. These spin-offs of the collaboration with the jihadis could have been contained if Western policy-makers had been guided by an awareness of the Islam problem, but instead they gave in to sentimental delusions, and reaped the bloody harvest.

Twenty-five years later, collaboration with jihad has become everyday policy. Our politicians, even and especially those who have Muslim countries bombed and invaded (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarkozy, David Cameron, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, François Hollande), though they all have the blood of Muslim and other civilians in the Near East on their hands, have also praised Islam to the skies. None of them has ever uttered a word of Islam criticism, or ‘Islamophobia’ as they call it, and some of them have even organised repression against Islam critics. (Spencer himself was refused entry into the United Kingdom under Cameron, when Theresa May was home minister; and under Obama he was refused FBI protection for an Islam-critical event that did indeed become the target of an Islamic terror attack.) Their interventions in Iraq, Lybia and Syria destabilised authoritarian but modernist regimes and cleared the way for ayatollahs and ISIS.

Redefining jihad:

In 1998, after bomb attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam, Bill Clinton declared in a speech at the UN: ‘Some may have the world believe that almighty God himself, the merciful, grants a license to kill. But that is not our understanding of Islam.…’ (p.327-328)

This soon became the orthodoxy. Academics whitewash Islam’s history and theology, top feminists like Germaine Greer whitewash female genital mutilation, Amnesty International advocates the ‘freedom’ to wear the burqa. The media downplay Islamic terror and crime, and after every bomb attack, they hurry to ensure us that “it has nothing to do with Islam”, diametrically in conflict with the vows the terrorists themselves had taken before their deeds, often videotaped, or their leaders’ declarations afterwards. If at all they had to face the fact of terror, they blamed it on ‘troubled’ individuals or on one organisation, which then consisted (in David Cameron’s words) of ‘monsters, not Muslims’. And when Muslims use the word jihad, Westerners hurry to claim that it means the ‘great jihad’, a spiritual struggle, while the physical struggle is only the ‘little jihad’, moreover purely defensive.

Yet, in an interview in 2001, Osama bin Laden explained:

‘This matter isn’t about any specific person, and it is not about the al-Qai’dah Organization. We are the children of an Islamic Nation, with Prophet Muhammad as its leader. Our Lord is one, our Prophet is one, our Qibla [the direction Muslims face during prayer] is one, we are one nation [ummah], and our Book [the Qur’an] is one. And this blessed Book, with the tradition [sunnah] of our generous Prophet, has religiously commanded us [alzamatna] with the brotherhood of faith [ukhuwat al-imaan], and all the true believers [mu’mineen] are brothers. So the situation isn’t like the West portrays it, that there is an “organization” with a specific name (such as “al-Qai’dah”) and so on. (p.322-323)

Bin Laden’s mentor Sheikh Abdullah ‘Azzam’s written exhortation to Muslims to join the jihad in Afghanistan, Join the Caravan, is likewise studded with Qur’anic quotations and references to the life of Muhammad. Azzam denied that Muhammad ever understood jihad solely as a spiritual struggle. “The saying, ‘We have returned from the lesser Jihad [battle] to the greater Jihad,’ which people quote on the basis that it is a hadith, is in fact a false, fabricated hadith which has no basis. It is only a saying of Ibrahim bin Abi Ablah, one of the Successors, and it contradicts textual evidence and reality.” He quotes several authorities charging that ahadithnarrated by Ibrahim bin Abi Ablah are false, including one who reports: “He was accused of forging hadith.” Azzam also invokes the medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya, who wrote: “This hadith has no source and nobody whomsoever in the field of Islamic knowledge has narrated it. Jihad against the disbelievers is the most noble of actions and moreover, it is the most important action for the sake of mankind. (…) the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) used to go out on military expeditions or send out an army at least every two months.” He quotes a hadith in which Muhammad says that Islam’s “highest peak” is jihad.’ (p.324)


Indeed, in a matter of decades, Western Europe has lost the will to survive as a non-Muslim entity. It no longer resists Islamisation, so it has allowed millions upon millions of Muslims in without demanding any de-Islamisation from them. In India, this same internal weakening of resolve has been in evidence since Mahatma Gandhi’s rise to the Congress leadership in 1920. Both European and Hindu elites have taken to blathering that all religions are essentially saying the same thing, and they are allergic to any less-than-rosy study about Islam itself. India having started earlier on this delusional course, it reaped the fruits earlier: in 1947 it lost a fifth of its territory to the newly-created Islamic republic of Pakistan. In the concomitant genocide, it lost a million of its people, and again some two million in East Pakistan in 1971.

With the recent, partly self-inflicted terror attacks, in parallel with the rising demands of its ever-growing Muslim community, Europe is now catching up fast. One way the European and Hindu elites try to avoid having to face the challenge of jihad, is interreligious dialogue. They consider themselves very clever and enlightened, but their stratagem is quite old and history teaches how it tends to end:

‘In the early tenth century, the patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas I Mystikos made an early attempt at interfaith outreach, writing to the Abbasid caliph Muqtadir in cordial terms: “The two powers of the whole universe, the power of the Saracens and that of the Romans, stand out and radiate as the two great luminaries in the firmament; for this reason alone we must live in common as brothers although we differ in customs, manners and religion.” Like later attempts at interfaith outreach, this one was for naught. The jihad continued.’ (p.137)

The end of the story was that on 28 May 1453, emperor Constantine XI Paleologus could do no more than exhort his men to a terminal fight against the troops of ‘the mad and false Prophet, Mohammed’ (p.371), and that on 29 May, the Ottoman army conquered Constantinople, turning it into the capital of the Ottoman Caliphate.

But several years before the end came, Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus spoke some grim truths about Islam, that no non-Muslim doubted in his own day, though they became a scandal when repeated in our own. Manuel, ‘little remembered after his death, shot to fame nearly six hundred years later, when on September 12, 2006, in Regensburg, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI dared to enunciate some truths about Islam that proved to be unpopular and unwelcome among Muslims worldwide. Most notoriously, the pope quoted Manuel on Islam: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” (…) In the twenty-first century, Manuel’s words were denounced as “Islamophobic”.’ (p.196)

Spencer subtly but repeatedly sketches the contrast between the fierce resistance by our ancestors and today’s surrender mentality: “The Battle of Tours in 732 may have stopped the complete conquest and Islamization of Europe. The warriors of jihad would appear again in France, but they would not come close again to gaining control of the whole country until many centuries later, by vastly different means, when there was no longer a Charles Martel to stop them.”’ (p.94)

The absence of a much-needed Charles Martel is obvious among our politician, nowhere more striking than in the Papacy. In the past, there have been Popes who, out of dire necessity, paid tribute to jihadis, but even then they never put Islam on the same footing as Christianity. And when the power equation was a bit better, the Pope acted as a strategic centre for organising Crusades or to motivate kings for the defence of Vienna or the battle of Lepanto. Even the last Pope, Benedict XVI, has famously uttered some criticism of Islam. But the Pope, Francis, has voluntarily knelt before Muslims and kissed the Quran. It is just sickening to hear the inheritor of such a proud tradition now parrot the worst pro-Islamic propaganda lies.

Worse, ‘Pope Francis was not just a defender of Islam and the Qur’an but of the Sharia death penalty for blasphemy: after Islamic jihadists in January 2015 murdered cartoonists from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Francis obliquely justified the murders by saying that

“it is true that you must not react violently, but although we are good friends if [an aide] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch, it’s normal. You can’t make a toy out of the religions of others. These people provoke and then [something can happen]. In freedom of expression, there are limits.”’ (p.357)

Jihadis who aren’t that well-informed about the reigning mentality in the Unbeliever camp, have shown no gratitude by threatening even Francis. An ISIS poster shows him beheaded. And that may well become the fate of all the other camp-followers on the Islamic jihad. They can only be rescued by Unbelievers: either the Muslims massively abandon Islamic belief, or those who don’t believe in either Islam or Islamophile propaganda somehow get the upper hand quickly.

(This write-up is borrowed with thanks from HERE).

Fighting Western Hinduphobia

By: Koenraad Elst

Rajiv Malhotra is the belated Hindu answer to decades of the systematic blackening of Hinduism in academe and the media. This is to be distinguished from the negative attitude to Hinduism among ignorant Westerners settling for the “caste, cows and curry” stereotype, and from the anti-Hindu bias among secularists in India. Against the latter phenomenon, Hindu polemicists have long been up in arms, eventhough they have also been put at a disadvantage by the monopoly of their enemies in the opinion-making sphere. But for challenging the American India-watching establishment, a combination of skills was necessary which Malhotra has only gradually developed and which few others can equal.


In the present book, Academic Hinduphobia (Voice of India, Delhi 2016, 426 pp.), he documents some of his past battles against Hinduphobia  in academe, i.e. the ideological enmity against Hinduism. We leave undecided for now whether that anti-Hindu attitude stems from fear towards an intrinsically better competitor (as many Hindus flatter themselves to think), from contempt for the substandard performance of those Hindus they have met in polemical forums, or from hatred against phenomena in their own past which they now think to recognize in Hinduism (“racism = untouchability”, “feudal inborn inequality = caste”).


In this war, American academe is linked with foreign policy interests and the Christian missionary apparatus, and they reinforce one another. Hindus have a formidable enemy in front of them, more wily and resourceful than they have ever experienced before. That is why a new knowledge of the specific laws of this particular battlefield is called for.

(Borrowed with permission from HERE)

“Saffron Wave” a book by Thomas Hansen & its review by Koenraad Elst

By: Koenraad Elst

[This book review was written just after the book’s publication in 2002.]

Though milder in tone, the latest academic book on Hindu revivalism suffers from the same shortcomings as most others. Ever since Craig Baxter’s fairly objective and well-documented book The Jana Sangha, already thirty years old, and Walter Andersen and Shridhar Damle’s Brotherhood in Saffron, already twelve years old, all the Western Hindutva watchers have chosen to rely on partisan secondary accounts, and to watch Hindutva through the coloured glasses which the so-called secularists have put on their noses.

The book The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton) by Professor Thomas Blom Hansen from Roskilde, Denmark, is no exception. Since the book has already been praised as “brilliant” by Prof. Peter Van Der Veer, I may concentrate on its less brilliant aspects. As usual, most quotations are from secondary and generally hostile sources: Bipan Chandra, K.N. Panikkar, Partha Chatterjee, Christophe Jaffrelot, Asghar Ali Engineer (a hard-boiled Islamist whom Hansen and others naively mistake for an enlightened Muslim), Sudhir Kakar, Gyan Pandey.

In the bibliography, we find Savarkar’s Hindutva, mercifully, but none of his statements from his time as Hindu Mahasabha leader; only one title by Balraj Madhok, none by Girilal Jain or Arun Shourie; nor we do not find Ram Swarup or Sita Ram Goel mentioned there. On the Ayodhya controversy, most of the publications presenting the temple evidence (Harsh Narain, R. Nath, S.R. Goel) are left unmentioned, while the official VHP evidence bundle is mentioned but was clearly left unread.

Hansen’s entire information on the Ayodhya debate is confined to anti-Hindu sources, esp. S. Gopal’s Penguin bookletAnatomy of a Confrontation (1991), which had already succeeded in keeping all serious presentations of the temple evidence out of view. That is how he can write the following howler: “In all cases this evidence has been refuted and contested by most of the serious authorities of archaeology and medieval Indian history.” (p.262) If that is so, Prof. Hansen, I challenge you to a public debate on the Ayodhya evidence. Let’s make it an open-book exam: you may bring all the arguments provided by S. Gopal and his comrades — but you may find upon closer reading that far from refuting the pro-temple evidence, they have adroitly left most of it undiscussed. And like his sources, Hansen keeps the relevant context of the Ayodhya affair, viz. the history and underlying theology of Islamic iconoclasm, out of view.

By relying on a partisan selection of secondary sources, Hansen, whose good faith we will continue to assume, is led by the nose by one of the warring parties into relaying its own version of the facts, all while believing that he is giving a neutral observer’s account of the conflict between Hindu revivalism and the Marxist-Muslim combine. In a footnote, Hansen describes the present writer as “a Belgian Catholic of a radical anti-Muslim persuasion who tries to make himself useful as a ‘fellow traveller’ of the Hindu nationalist movement”. (p.262) I strongly deny having ever been “anti-Muslim”, for I make it a point to frequently insist that “not Muslims but Islam is the problem”. However, I do readily admit to being a “fellow-traveller” of Dharmic civilization in its struggle for survival against the ongoing aggression and subversion by well-organized hostile ideologies. Only, I must add that in Hindutva-watching publications of the past decade, I have never encountered any journalistic or academic “expert” who was not a fellow-traveller of one of the warring parties. Hansen himself makes no secret of his partisanship, as when he describes the BJP as “evil” (p.235) and as “swadeshi fascism” (p.235), though he subjectively tries to be fair by mitigating this denunciation with the rightful comment that both secularity and democracy have not been well served by the Congress establishment either. His partisan and prejudiced attitude leads him to ignore or misinterpret important trends within the Hindutva movement. Thus, he dismisses the inclusion of some Muslims in the Vajpayee cabinet as follows: “Like all other measures taken by the BJP in this regard, these were also symbolic gestures devoid of any content or seriousness.” (p.267) Would you allow such a clearly partisan sentence in a thesis about any other movement (say, Indian secularism) by your own students, Prof. Hansen? At any rate, the dismissal is mistaken. From the inclusion of a green strip in the BJP flag (1980) onwards, the BJP has always consistently courted the Muslim community, so that it now has thousands of Muslim members, who even have their own “minority cell”. Even before that, the Hindu nationalists in the Janata government were party to a number of pro-Muslim steps, including the creation of the intrinsically communal and anti-Hindu “Minorities Commission”. Dattopant Thengadi and others have told me how the shared time in jail with Jamaat-i-Islami activists during the secularist Emergency dictatorship had kindled sympathy for the Muslims. However that may be, in the 1990s, there is just no denying the RSS-BJP tendency to what they themselves used to denounce as “Muslim appeasement”. Even in the Ayodhya campaign, from which Hansen chooses to remember only the hard-line rhetoric of a Sadhvi Ritambhara, the emphasis was again and again on Rama as a “national” (as opposed to “Hindu”) hero, and on Babar as a “foreign invader” (as opposed to “Islamic iconoclast”), who had been fought “by Indian Muslims and Hindus jointly”. Anyone familiar with non-Sangh Hindu activism should have noted the criticism of the Sangh’s pro-Muslim line, e.g. in Abhas Chatterjee’s bookConcept of Hindu Nation (1995, not in Hansen’s bibliography). One of the more disturbing and sterile approaches which Hansen has borrowed from his secularist sources, is the tendency to psychologize, and to bury hard facts under a cloud of psychobabble: “construct”, “identities built around a threatening other”, “domesticating public spaces”, “myth of Hindu effeminacy”.

To Hansen, the Hindu perception of Islam is unconnected with any historical facts about Islam, it’s all self-generated psychic images whose only basis in reality is non-religious sociological phenomena such as the “inferiority complex” of the “vernacular middle class” vis-à-vis the Anglo-secularist “mandarins” (p.181). Facts about Islam are mostly kept out of view, otherwise ridiculed (Kashmiri “insurgency”, p.168; “Bangladeshi infiltration”, p.199) or dismissed as “myth”, e.g. that Muslims have “many wives and secret links to rich Arabs” (p.211), or (repeatedly) that Muslims oppose birth control.

It is a straight fact that the Muslim birth rate is much higher, that they participate much less in India’s effort at birth control, and that this is also the intention of Islamic leaders, expressed clearly in a number of pamphlets and firmly based on Islamic scripture (vide K. Elst: The Demographic Siege, 1998 [and for a far more thorough and up-to-date account: A.P. Joshi, M.D. Srinivas and J.K. Bajaj: Religious Demography of India, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai 2003]). Time and again, in order to explain a community’s assertiveness, Hansen relies on the voguish term “the other”, which carries unspoken Auschwitz connotations (it was popularized by the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas in his reflections on the Holocaust), and he makes those connotations explicit, e.g. “The community is weak, sinful and unfulfilled. The only way to remedy this is by destroying the other, whose very presence (as threat qua temptation and fascination) weakens and prevents the inherent discipline, strength and manliness in the community from blossoming.” (p.211) What an impressive string of words, only a pity that its relevance to Hindu nationalism is non-existent. There is no Hindu plan for “destroying the other”. The Islam problem in India has nothing to do with Muslims being a resident “other” who undermines the Hindu morale, a calque on the Nazi perception of the Jews as agents of immorality corrupting the German people, for unlike the well-integrated (and consequently influential) Jews of Germany, the Muslims are a highly separate community whose chief crime is not the influence they might have on Hindu society, but the direct threat which their doctrinal hatred of god-pluralism poses to Hinduism, especially through the medium of violence against both symbols and followers of the Hindu religion. “Otherness” discourse is totally unable to throw any light on the Hindu perception of Islam, for Hindus have proven during long millennia that they have no problem with “others”, as when they provided asylum to refugee Syrian Christians, Jews and Parsis. By contrast, Hindu feelings about Islam are comprehensively explained by their experience of Islam in action, as during the Partition (I may have missed something, but I don’t recall Hansen seconding the common secularist dismissal of Muslim guilt for Partition as yet another “myth”) or the East Bengal genocide of 1971. Eye-sore buildings like the Babri Masjid (until 1992) or the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi stand as permanent testimony to Islamic hatred of Hindu god-pluralism. Also, the usual implication that an “other” is set up as a bogey to concentrate a community’s attention and thereby strengthen its unity, does not apply. All the factors of the communal conflict, far from being the creation of Hindutva strategists, were in place from the day the first Islamic invader set foot in India. Contrary to the secularist claim that “Hinduism” and “the Hindu community” are recent inventions, the Islamic invaders united all non-monotheistic Indians under the new label “Hindu”, meaning any Indian unbelievers, they showed their deep awareness of their own Muslim identity, and they proved through word and deed the essential and inescapable antagonism between Islamic and Hindu identities. All the primary sources, the medieval Persian writings of Muslim conquerors and their court chroniclers, prove that Hindu-Muslim antagonism was not generated by colonial machinations or post-colonial mobilization in an effort to “domesticate public spaces”. This conflict was unilaterally imposed on the Hindus by Muslims. The immunization of Hindutva-watchers against factual discourse on Islam is so thorough that in some cases, factual statements by Hindus about Islam are not even criticized, as if their mere quotation will suffice to evoke scorn and laughter for so much evil nonsense, e.g. RSS weekly Organiser’s entirely correct view that “the supreme Islamic mission is to convert the Hindus, one and all” (p.179), or Sadhvi Ritambhara’s accurate statement that “the Quran teaches them to lie in wait for idol worshipers, to skin them alive” etc. (p.180). Well, the Quran does say that, and it does say that the war against the infidels is on until the whole world is Islamic, which implies the conversion (or death) of even the last Hindu. Likewise, no discussion is opened against the denunciation of the “secular intellectuals” as “alienated pseudo-secularists full of contempt for the true Hindu culture” (p.181), 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. Hansen’s book is full of interesting information about Hindutva campaigning in the 1990s, but conceptually it is quite superficial.

Some minor remarks to conclude. The book contains some of the familiar tricks known from the M.J. Akbar school of Hindutva-smearing, e.g. just as Akbar once cleverly described Veer Savarkar as “a co-accused in the Mahatma murder trial” without mentioning that Savarkar was fully acquitted and not even indicted again in the appeals trial, we find Prof. Hansen casting suspicion on L.K. Advani by describing him as “indicted in a massive corruption scandal in 1996” (p.266) without mentioning that the investigation cleared him completely of the charges (which were minor, the “massive” scandal mainly pertaining to dozens of Congress secularists, as Hansen fails to explain). There are also minor mistakes, sometimes clearly printing errors (Rajendra Singh becoming sarsanghchalak in “1944” instead of 1994, p.182), sometimes indicators of limited familiarity with Hinduism (“Ramahandi” for Ramanandi, 3x, p.262).

But many Hindu nationalists will be glad to read Prof. Hansen’s acknowledgment of the diplomatic success achieved with India’s nuclear tests, which have “forced western media and decision makers to recognize India as a major power”. (p.266) You may quote that whenever Frontline alleges that BJP rule in 1998-99 was a foreign policy disaster.e

This review is over and now let us learn the credentials of the author of this book (Saffron Wave) and, then, learn astonishingly know that a person no less than the celebrated industrialist Ambanis of India are financing this author. An industrialist before investing his money always does a “due diligence exercise” but here in this case Ambanis have done none.

(The following is taken from a newsletter for SASNET, Swedish South Asian Network, which featured two following programs. This is an example of generating ‘atrocity literature’ on India.  Of course, it was followed by a general ‘feel good’ event by the Embassy of India. SASNET Swedish South Asian Studies Network. Thomas Blom Hansen holds SASNET lecture on how communal conflicts transform Indian cities. This is the information available on the Professor through a link on SASNET’s page).


Habilitation Degree, Roskilde Univleersity 

Thomas Hansen is the Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor in South Asian Studies and Professor in Anthropology. He is also the Director of Stanford’s Center for South Asia where he is charged with building a substantial new program. He has many and broad interests spanning South Asia and Southern Africa, several cities and multiple theoretical and disciplinary interests from political theory and continental philosophy to psychoanalysis, comparative religion and contemporary urbanism.

Much of Professor Hansen’s fieldwork was done during the tumultuous and tense years in the beginning of the 1990s when conflicts between Hindu militants and Muslims defined national agendas and produced frequent violent clashes in the streets. Out of this work came two books: The Saffron Wave. Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton 1999) which explores the larger phenomenon of Hindu nationalism in the light of the dynamics of India’s democratic experience, and Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay(Princeton 2001) which explores the historical processes and contemporary conflicts that led to the rise of violent socioreligious conflict and the renaming of the city in 1995.

During the last decade, Professor Hansen has pursued a detailed study of religious revival, racial conflict and transformation of domestic and intimate life from the 1950’s to the present in a formerly Indian township in Durban, South Africa. This round of work has now resulted in a book entitled Melancholia of Freedom: Anxiety, Race and Everyday Life in a South African Township (Princeton University Press, 2012). In addition to these ethnographic engagements, Professor Hansen has pursued a number of theoretical interests in the anthropology of the state, sovereignty, violence and urban life. This has resulted in a range of co-edited volumes, and special issues of journals such as Critique of Anthropology and African Studies. He is currently working on a collection of theoretical and ethnographic essays provisionally entitled Public Passions and Modern Convictions.

Thomas Blom Hansen, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for South Asia at Stanford University in USA, holds a SASNET lecture at Lund University on Monday 27 April 2015, 13.15 – 15.00. He will talk about ”Vernacular Urbanism: Community, Capital and Urban Space in Middle India”. Venue: Lecture Hall Eden at the Department of Political Science.

In his presentation, Prof. Blom Hansen describes how, in the 1970s and 80s, the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra was a by-word for bitter and violent conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. In the late 1980s, Shiv Sena won political control over the city, a dominance the party has retained ever since. During the same period, the city almost tripled its size and became a major center for manufacturing and tourism and home to a powerful new elite. Based on fieldwork in 1991 and again in 2012, he  explores how the  violent street battles in the city along communal/religious lines over the past decades have been transformed into “infrastructural violence”: heavy handed demolition of Muslim owned properties, and markets; renaming of public spaces and re-framing the city’s history; the emergence of networks of private enterprises and public institutions sharply divided along community lines. Aurangabad share many features with other large provincial cities in India. Its combination of rapid growth and a dominant Hindu nationalist presence in politics and public life may indicate and illustrate what  “urban middle India” will look like in the near future. Read more… http://www.sasnet.lu.se/sasnet/sasnet-seminar-how-communal-conflicts-transformed-aurangabad

Aarhus seminar on Violent Conjuntures in Democratic India

The Contemporary India Study Centre Aarhus (CISCA) at Aarhus University, Denmark, organises a Guest Lecture by Amrita Basu, Paino Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at Amherst College, USA, on Thursday 30 April 2015, at 14.00. She will talk about ”Violent Conjuntures in Democratic India”, a presentation based on her book by the same title recently published. It is a discussion of when and why Hindu nationalists have engaged in discrimination and violence against minorities in contemporary India. She asks why the incidence and severity of violence differs significantly across Indian states, within states, and through time. She calls for a broader understanding of social movements and greater appreciation of party-movement relations. All student and staff welcome. Venue: Building 1342-455 (Juridisk Auditorium), University of Aarhus. More information. http://www.sasnet.lu.se/content/aarhus-seminar-violent-conjuntures-democratic-india

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