In response to protests this year(2005) from several faith based groups, the California Board of Education agreed to withdraw materials considered to be giving a distorted view of Christian and Jewish ideas. But Hindus, as is usual in these cases, were given short thrift.
In this article we examine some of the background to the Hindu objections to how their history and culture are taught in the USA and the rest of the world and will focus on some of the special interest groups campaigning for the status-quo.
Most racist and colonialist viewpoints of non-European cultures and history are now regarded as outdated. They are recognised as not giving an objective view consistent with responsible academic study, but merely the vehicle by which one was able to peddle the prejudices by what we can now see was a less enlightened age.
On the positive side humanity can be said to have learnt from its mistakes – a century ago what would now be recognised as prejudiced and a prescriptive view of non-European and non-Western cultures nevertheless did lay the foundations of modern academia. Indeed it was those very tools which were later utilised to eradicate the respectability of scientific racism and denigration of ancient customs and beliefs, merely to satisfy a preconceived point of view. This was most evidently seen in the USA, a paradoxical country in many respects. While laying the foundations of what we now understand as democracy, a normative principle to which all civilised nations are said to aspire, the continuation of slavery for many years led to an unhealthy dose of extreme ethnic prejudice.
Modern racism, as well as democracy, can also be said to be an American product, or in another rather better way, according to one caption describing a photographic exhibition of African-American victims of murderous lynching in the Deep South, “Racism is as American as apple pie”. Nevertheless if at one time American intellectual life was dominated in the early Twentieth Century by thinkers such as Madison Grant, Lothropp Stoddard and Ernest Sevier-Cox, whose racism was paraded as rational and scientific, it was also neutralised by the work of someone who is regarded as the founding father of anthropology, Dr. Franz Boas.
Although Boas may yet again have had some facts not entirely correct, something more evident with his disciples Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, by the time Mississippi senator Theodore Bilbo warned white America in 1946 to deport all blacks to Africa in order to save the white race of America’s founding fathers, such ideas, while permissible, were increasingly less respectable and harder to justify.
Bilbo had penned “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelisation” to ask white America to push for expulsion of all African-Americans to Liberia in order to stop America’s downfall by the mixing of the races. He claimed that Rome, Greece, Carthage and Egypt had befallen the same fate when the “white master race” in those ancient civilisations had mixed with the Negroid inhabitants and slaves. Interestingly he said the same thing about India, and was following in the footsteps blazed by the scientific racist writers such as Madison Grant. According to this gang, Hindu civilisation fell because the white master race of Aryan invaders, mixed their blood with the subjugated dark-skinned population, despite the rigorous attempts to outlaw miscegenation by means of the caste system.
Now this was nothing unique as the whole idea of the Aryan Invasion myth had been manufactured by German Indologist Max Muller to satisfy his British imperialist sponsors during the nineteenth century. But unlike the scientific racists, Muller retracted his ideas and clarified that his references were to language groups, and not race. Nevertheless, in an age when Europe was becoming the world master, and the indigenous peoples of Australia, the Americas and southern Africa were being displaced, vanquished or exterminated by settlers of European origin, the idea that the same thing had been done in the distant past by the white master race fell on fertile ground, and were regarded as undisputable fact. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” was therefore not anything unique in this respect, and only its practical application as witnessed by the horrors of National Socialism culminating in the Holocaust eventually led to a full rethink of where such uncontrolled mental gymnastics could lead to.
Unfortunately old prejudices die hard.
In 1999, America’s most notorious National Socialist, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke published the updated version of a “Mein Kampf” more suited to the racist mentality of a new century. This book was called “My Awakening”. Duke’s thrust in the work is a polite and sugar coated academic version of an idea which he told an audience in 1976: “The problems of this country [USA] can be summed up in two words: Jews and niggers.”
While the beginning of the book deals with how all people of African descent are genetically inferior than other races, and more prone to extremely high levels of violent crime and sexual promiscuity which are supposedly responsible for ruining white societies around the world, the second part of the book actually shows Duke trying to make common cause with hardcore ethnic nationalists from the black community. His reasoning as that they must face their common enemy in the form of Jewish supremacism, a sarcastic term in deference to the white supremacist terminology often associated with the former Klan leader. Nicely sandwiched in the middle of all this, in Chapter 29 to be exact, is David Duke’s commentary on how India became racially degenerate through the ethnic mixing of superior white Aryans with the indigenous darkies of India.
When we at Hindu Human Rights came to know of this, we contacted Duke to see if he could explain himself and his use of this fraudulent pseudo academic myth. However, ironically enough it turned out he was in prison for fraud at the time and was not willing to talk openly for fear of his true identity becoming known in the midst of a riot by Mexican inmates. In any case, a refutation of Duke’s racist theories on India is something that has not even been taken up by normally anti-racist writers. Why is this? Could it be that Duke’s racism is actually respectable if it happens to victimise Hindus? What respectable academic, in this day and age, could possibly share these noxious and racist ideas? Well as it happens, quite a few actually.
After the attack on Pearl harbour in 1941 and the entry of America into the Second World War on the side of the Allies, the entire ethnic Japanese population of the country was imprisoned and suspected as a potential fifth column of the Axis. However, no such fate befell the even larger numbers of Americans who were of Italian or German descent. Indeed as shown by the example of Eisenhower, having a Teutonic name would not necessarily even hamper a career at the very apex of the Allied military machine.
Moving to the year 2005 it would seem that California, a state now led by a man who not only speaks English tinged by his native German but whose father served in the Waffen SS, has found a new community to treat on an unequal level. In response to protests this year from several faith based groups, the California Board of Education agreed to withdraw materials considered to be giving a distorted view of Christian and Jewish ideas. But Hindus, as is usual in these cases, were given short thrift. Not only that but an unhealthy array of anti-Hindu extremists has built up to warn of the danger posed by so-called “Hindutva” supporters and the “Saffronisation” of Indology – reminding us of parallel verbiage used to indoctrinate fear about the so-called Zionist lobby and Mossad. Instead of sinister yarmulke clad figures examining the globe in a menacing manner to make logistical plans for their nefarious designs, we now have the myth of some amorphous saffron mass doing exactly the same thing with Indological studies.
Although it has not gone as far as the myth generated in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, at least not yet, the seeds have been planted that respectable academia should keep its distance from these weeds in the garden. The demolition of the racist Aryan invasion myth is seen as the most dangerous example of “saffronising” Indology and related subjects. So who are these people who inject anti-Hindu venom into mainstream academia?
Judging by their sympathy of the Aryan Invasion Myth, one could safely assume they were closely associated with the likes of Duke, the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist neo-Nazi militias. But this would be where one would initially at least be mistaken. In fact they often parade themselves as anti-racists and social liberals.
On the surface they may seem at polar opposites but on issues such as Hindus, they are united with Duke and the Klan, although they put across their ideas more convincingly. Prominent among the anti-Hindu group is Michael Witzel, an American professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University,who has the support of a number of academicians including Indian historians Romila Thapar, D.N.Jha and Shereen Ratnagar. In the light of what has just been written it is very interesting finding Thapar in this as she built her career in India based upon her unshakable belief in scientific Marxism, as opposed to a backward, obscurantist and ultimately socially evil Hinduism.
Then, in the well worn path of pseudo-academics who constantly berate the West for its capitalism and exploitation, she went to take up a plum well-paid position in that great counter-revolutionary, reactionary, capitalist whore of Babylon, the United States of America itself.
From his ivory tower, Witzel surveys the scene of Hindu protestors just as Mahmud Ghazni did before he attacked and desecrated Somnath. He can brush them off just as Hitler and Stalin did to the Poles in 1939:
“The proposed revisions are not of a scholarly but of a religious-political nature, and are primarily promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist academics writing about issues far outside their area of expertise,”
Well if the demands are of a political nature then what of his own sidekick Romila Thapar? By trying to impose a Marxist-Leninist social model on Indian history is she not more guilty of this, especially since the reality of the proletarian paradise came crashing down in Eastern Europe in 1989, and in the former Soviet Union in 1991? The humanities in India have long been dominated by pseudo-academics with Stalinist sympathies who have about as much objectivity towards Hindu culture as Comrade Joe had in dealing with the Ukrainian kulaks.
Thapar is herself a product of this environment, one of the most damaging legacies of what can accurately be termed as Nehruvian National Socialism which was and continues to be responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Hinduism across the Indian-subcontinent.
The California Board of Education should objectively look at all the facts. Why are Jewish, Christian and Islamic perspectives on their own respective cultures taken as legitimate, while Hindus are denied equal treatment in this? Why are Witzel and his Klan allowed to mock and denigrate Hindus in a manner which if applied to any other community, culture or belief system would be denounced as bigoted, prejudiced and racist? In fact why is the Witzel SS Legion going unchallenged when it supports a racist idea, namely the Aryan Invasion Theory, yet ironically slams anyone opposing it or bringing evidence to the contrary as some sort of Hindu fascist.
Judging by the similarity Witzel has in this sphere with David Duke, perhaps the fascist is within the self and not in some imaginary external entity. When we examine how Hindu Dharma is taught, and how Hindus are portrayed in American academia, it seems as if Dr. Boas had not even existed. The ideas of Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, Ernest Sevier-Cox, and Theodore Bilbo lie triumphant.
However it is not David Duke championing these ideas within academia, although he is trying very hard to. It is supposedly respectable scholars such as Witzel and Thapar. In “My Awakening” Duke praises Bilbo for his ideas. In changing the substance but not the title, perhaps Americans had indeed take their choice. Will it be to look at other cultures objectively and make their intellectuals act with some responsibility towards their fellow human beings? Or will it be to allow Witzel, Thapar, and the rest of the same Klan to be the window for which the ideas of Duke can actually gain greater mainstream acceptance, as they have done with the continued respectability of the mythical Aryan Invasion in the highest echelons of American academia? Will America live up to ties democratic ideals, or will Hindu-bashing become as American as lynching once was, and as apple pie continues to be?
While it commendable that many Hindus and Hindu groups are taking up this issue in California and elsewhere, we remind all concerned individuals, organisations and academics that this incident is just the tip of the iceberg. Pseudo-academics who continue to peddle and romanticise the residues of Nazi fantasies and wet-dreams of a super-human Aryan Master Race need to be exposed wherever they lurk.
Romila Thapar does not call herself a Marxist. How would you reply to her?