Saturday, February 7, 2015

The hypocrisy of the New York Times Editorial "Modi's Dangerous Silence:" The limits of White liberalism

The limits of White liberalism are embodied in the hypocrisies and double standards in White articulations of liberty and freedom.

The rhetoric of this version of liberalism is emboldened in its double standards.

As the father of liberalism, John Stuart Mill, was eschewing the virtues of liberty, he was justifying the English occupation of India.

The recent New York Times Editorial on "Modi's Dangerous Silence" is another reflection of this double standard.

As I have noted elsewhere, the ascendance of the Hindu Right in India needs to be critiqued with vigor and full force to secure the space of multifaith syncretism that forms an integral part of an Indian articulation of nationhood.

However, for the New York Times  to criticize the Hindu Right's efforts of mass conversion as dangerous reflects the kind of double standard that is integral to White liberalism.

Mass conversions after all are the mantra of the White-Western way of life.

From the Christian crusades to the more contemporary crusades carried out under the facades of democracy promotion and development, mass conversions have played key roles in the assertion of hegemony of the Western way of life as a global universal. For the New York Times to refer to conversions as violent, there also needs to be a deeper engagement with the contemporary practices of conversion that are integral to Christian and Islamic missions. Critique needs to be directed toward the many missionary activities that are supported by the US state in its assertion of US hegemony. 

The New York Times article criticizes "the mass conversion to Hinduism of Christians and Muslims who have been coerced or promised money," observing that "Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right."

The problem with the position of the New York Times is embodied in its uncritical stance toward the violence of conversion, often through coercion and other times through the promise of money and services, that has been and continues to be carried out by Christian missionaries in indigenous communities in India and by Islamic efforts of conversion across marginalized spaces in rural and urban India. If the New York Times considers the act of conversion through coercion or through the promise of money to be fundamentally violent, it needs to take a critical stance toward many of the Catholic missions that lie at the heart of missionary services across underserved communities in India. If the New York Times considers conversion with some implicit promise of benefits as troubling, it needs to complicate its understanding of Mother Teresa and "Missionaries of Charity," whose fundamental mission of "uplifting the burden of the soul" is carried out through acts of conversion.

To target the under-served  and marginalized with the carrot of conversion is fundamentally an act of violence.

Many of the indigenous communities I have worked with in rural India are targets of such violence not just by the outfits of the Hindu Right, but also by the various missionary groups that masquerade the violence of conversion in the language of altruism. The act of violence is carried out through a facade of altruism offered by organized religion.

The Times article goes on to note: "In January, up to 100 Christians in West Bengal “reconverted” to Hinduism. Hard-line Hindu nationalist groups, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), make no secret of their support for a “homecoming” campaign designed to “return” non-Hindus to the fold."

Indeed such criticism of the VHP and RSS-orchestrated "homecoming" campaigns needs to be situated amid criticisms of Islamic conversions and Christian missionary activities that carry out violence through various forms of service delivery. The poverty of the disenfranchised becomes a golden opportunity for carrying out the violence of conversion.

I invite the New York Times to join its call to Narendra Modi for breaking his silence with a similar commitment to speaking vocally about the violence of conversion that is carried out by the US state through the missionary activities it supports across the globe.

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