Interview by People of Shambhala.
Mr. Ron Banerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group.
In the wake of renewed violence against Hindus in Pakistan, and with more than 100 Hindu families seeking asylum in India, Ron Banerjee, Director of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group spoke to People of Shambhala. Mr. Banerjee talks about the background to the conflict, and why Pakistan was created in 1947. Why the West should include Hinduism, not just the “Judeo-Christian” tradition. And he also discusses Islam and violence against Hindus and the West, and how we can defend our values and freedoms.
PoS: At the moment about 100 Hindu families are seeking asylum in India, from Pakistan, and are claiming discrimination and violence. There were four doctors murdered on the first day of Eid, and, I think, a Sikh was stabbed as well. Can you tell us a little about that situation?
RB: Sure. The situation is very natural. Most people don’t understand what Pakistan is. Pakistan is a country that was formed for the Muslims. India is a multi-ethnic country for everybody. So Pakistan was formed with the very idea that the only people that should be in Pakistan are Muslims. There is nothing strange about what’s going on in Pakistan today. It’s being going on for a long time.
At independence Pakistan’s population was about ten percent Hindu and Sikh. Now it’s less than one percent. So the question is where did that nine percent go? Well, they were either ethnically cleansed, driven away, or slaughtered in large numbers in the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. In East Pakistan an estimated 2.4 million Hindus were slaughtered in just one year, and hundreds of thousands of Hindu women were raped.
There is nothing surprising about any of this because Islam was introduced into the Asian subcontinent with the objective of occupying and exterminating the Hindus. According to the historian William Durant, and other historians, an estimated 80 million Hindus were killed, were slaughtered, and thousands and thousands of Hindu temples were smashed, and mosques were built on top of them. The Muslims of India tried very hard over the period of their 700 years [of occupation] to wipe out the Hindus. But there was resistance from some of the Hindu kingdoms. They never had full control over India so they were unable to achieve that goal. But that’s the eternal goal. According to Islam, Hinduism is the lowest form of life on the planet. Because Hindus, according to them, they’re polytheistic, they believe in multiple gods. They believe we worship idols, and idol worship is a sin in Islam.
PoS: One thing that has struck me is just the extent of the attacks on Hindus, Buddhists, Yezidis, Zoroastrians, Kalash. Yet we don’t hear anything about this. You mentioned the war of 71; 2.4 million dead, 200,000 Hindu women raped, but we don’t hear anything about that in the West.
RB: No you don’t, because there’s a systematic effort by Muslims and petrodollars to cover it up. The reason you don’t hear about it is because they make tremendous effort to silence it.
PoS: In all fairness, some Middle Eastern newspapers that probably cater mostly to Muslims have covered some of it, but you don’t seem to find it in the West, which is even more incredible. Why do you think Western journalists won’t cover something like that? The West always portrays itself as caring about minorities and being the people that always stand up to stop genocide, and that are always campaigning against violence against minorities. But nothing.
RB: This may offend you a little bit.
PoS: It won’t [laughs].
RB: It probably will [laughs]. But, it’s because the West have been hypocrites.
RB: If you look at Britain, for example, when they went to India they did not stop genocide or massacres, they expedited them. They actually supported the Muslims against the Hindus, helped them to perpetrate massacres. In terms of the establishment of the state of Pakistan, if you read people like William Dalrymple, a British historian, it becomes quite clear that the British encouraged the creation of Pakistan in order to divide the [anti-colonial] independence movement.
PoS: Do you think there is still a kind of colonial residue in the atmosphere. Do you think there is some kind of patronizing attitude in the media? Is that why we don’t see atrocities reported?
I’ve heard this question before. That it’s a form of racism that they don’t condemn Muslims for their human rights violations is because they are non-Western and [therefore] they are expected to be barbaric. There might be some of that, but these days it’s rather more a culture of fear. I mean, if you publish a cartoon of Mohammed, even if you’re in the West, you get threatened, and you possibly get killed, and you have riots going on. So now it’s more of a culture of fear.
PoS: On that note, Subramanian Swamy, the Hindu professor at Harvard, was fired because he wrote an article on how to wipe out Islamic terror [in India]. I read it. I didn’t find it shocking… I suppose [at the most controversial point] he’s saying that non-Hindus would have to appreciate their Hindu roots or they wouldn’t be allowed to vote. What was your take on his article and on his being fired?
RB: The article was a hundred percent correct. He did not say – as has been claimed – that all non-Hindus should be forced to convert to Hinduism or anything like that. He didn’t even say that non-Hindus should be oppressed or treated badly within India. He just said they should have a respect for Hinduism, and that they should acknowledge the proper history, especially the history of the Muslims in India. There was no such thing as Islam in India before about 1,000 AD. Muslims invaded and forcibly converted millions of Hindus to Islam. That’s just a historical fact. And that they should acknowledge that historical fact.
PoS: Why is it when it comes to Islam, we don’t stick for minorities? We don’t stick up for women’s rights? We don’t stick up for gay rights? All the things that we would stand up for at any other time.
RB: It’s a combination of different things. Political correctness is part of it, but it’s not the whole explanation. It’s more a simple combination of fear and bribery. In many cases it’s just the money and influence pouring in from the Middle East demanding that no negative aspects of Islam be spoken about. It’s the carrot and the stick, the carrot being the money being the money flowing in from petrodollars, and the stick being [the fear of] rioting and beheading over a cartoon or any slight to Islam.
PoS: In 2008, there was the Mumbai attacks. A couple of things about that were striking. One thing was the way the Western media covered it. If memory serves me correctly – and I think it does – it was implied that the attacks in Mumbai were against essentially Western targets, such as the Taj Mahal Hotel. Do you think they were going after Western targets or do you think there was another incentive?
Breaking news on India TV: the Mumbai attacks that left
more than 100 people dead.
RB: Well, most of the people that were killed were Hindus. So, I wouldn’t call them Western targets… again it’s the stupidity of the West, reporting it in this way… It’s not necessarily the case that they [the terrorists] were trying to kill as many White people, or White tourists, as possible. They just wanted to attack the most visible, or the wealthiest, or the most high profile, targets. Those aren’t Western targets. The only target that they went out of their way to attack that was not related to Hinduism was the synagogue, the Jewish target.
PoS: You probably follow what is going on in Europe, where we hear a lot of calls for sharia. And some people are trying to defend liberal democracy, but they don’t always seem to know what they’re defending. You believe that Hindu values and the values of liberal democracy and modernity are the same. Can you tell me what those would be?
RB: The one mistake that Westerners all make – including conservatives – is that they define Western values and the values of liberal democracy strictly as Judeo-Christian. And I don’t think that’s the case. I believe Hindu values have to be included in that as well because India is the world’s largest democracy and it’s 80 percent Hindu, so how can it just be Judeo-Christian. Most people will tell you that it [democracy] comes from the British, which is obnoxious and insulting and racist. I would think that you should want to give credit to the people of that country rather than to an invasive force a hundred years ago.
The values of democracy are more in tune with Hinduism than with many, many, many other faith traditions, because if you look at Hinduism there was an openness – the ability of people within Hinduism to have different gods, multiple deities, and to worship as they please… The ability to allow this freedom, to worship as one pleased without being excommunicated or called a heretic, that’s one of the factors that makes Hinduism a more democratic religion than many others.
When people say that the West is a result of Judeo-Christian civilization, it’s also a combination of that and Socrates, Aristotle, and others, and they were in pre-Christian times, and they were not Jewish either. They were part of a faith that was somewhat similar to Hinduism in the sense that it had multiple gods. I think, on the one hand, it’s difficult because, it [the conception of democracy and the West] has to be more inclusive; it can’t be just Judeo-Christian. You’ve got to embrace some of those other traditions as well. On the other hand let’s not start saying Islam had something to do with it as well; [because] no it didn’t.
PoS: Are there historical links between the ancient Greeks and Hinduism?
RB: I’m not a historian, so I’m not a hundred percent certain, but some of the words and names… Sanskrit is the original Indo-European language… so there are some similarities between ancient Greek and Sanskrit.
PoS: Yes, that’s from Indo-European. Proto-Indo-European is the root of many European languages and Indian as well. And some of the ancient Greeks were influenced by Buddhism(1) as well, so there must be some links [to Hinduism].(2)
RB: Yeah, yeah, I understand there were. There must be some linkages.
PoS: That would be pretty interesting [to research into]. Sort of on that note, today we have a lot of Christian groups that embrace interfaith dialogue with Islam, and they have imams up on stage, and it’s all very lovey-dovey. Yet they react hysterically to New Age spirituality – which is a very pacifistic form of spirituality – but they are extraordinary hysterical about that and think it’s all Satan. It strikes me, whether you like it or not, New Ageism is a big part of Western culture and has been for some time. They’re obviously frightened by it, and think it’s going to destroy civilization. But, I don’t know if you know this, but Hindu nationalism and Buddhist nationalism [and anti-colonialism] were partly revived – or were encouraged to be revived – through a couple of Western proto-New Age people of the Theosophical Society.(3)
RB: Yes, I heard about that… the Theosophical Society in Calcutta.
PoS: Related to that, do you think we should be forming alliances between Hindus, and people who practice Yoga, and spiritual people, and then Christians and Jews and Zoroastrians?
RB: Yes, I think Hinduism, and Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, are a better fit for Western democracy and liberalism than Islam. I think maybe why some Christians feel kinship with Islam is that – for example, with the Inquisition – Christianity has behaved more like Islam than the peaceful, tolerant, Hindus and the Buddhists… I think you need a combination of tolerance and as strength. You shouldn’t tolerate the intolerant.
RB: Maybe if you could meld together the toughness of Christianity with some of the tolerance of Hinduism and Buddhism, and form an alliance, you may be able to get the elusive Holy Grail that everyone seems to be looking for, which is how to be strong enough to deter [political] Islam, while not sacrificing our values and principles of liberalism and human rights and democracy.
(1) For those interested in the fusion of ancient Greek and Buddhist culture see:
The Buddhist Channel: Gandhara artist’s lasting contribution to Greco-Buddhist art;
UNESCO: images of Greco-Buddhist art;
(2) For those interested in the historical links between ancient Greece and India, see Fordham University: Greek Reports of India & Aryavarta;
Author Thomas McEvilley on Ancient Greek and Indian philosophy .
Hindu Wisdom: India and Greece;
(3) For more information of the Theosophical Society and its relationship to Hindu and Buddhist anti-colonialism see:
Imperial encounters: religion and modernity in India and Britain by Peter van der Veer [Google Books].
BlavatskyNeet: Blavatsky and Buddhism.
Hindu nationalism: origins, ideologies and modern myths by Chetan Bhatt [Google Books].
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