Muscular Liberalism and Indian Fascism

What do the following men have in common:

Narendra Modi

1. Narendra Modi

Bal Thackeray

2. Bal Thackeray

Praveen Togadia

3. Praveen Togadia

Slobodan Milosovic

4. Slobodan Milosovic

Jean-Marie Le Pen

5. Jean-Marie Le Pen

Christopher Hitchens

6. Christopher Hitchens

Martin Amis

7. Martin Amis

Mark Steyn

8. Mark Steyn

The answer?

Well, we know that the first three are Indian political fascists who sprinkle their rhetoric with anti-Muslim bigotry to stigmatise communities and win votes at the drop of a Nehru cap. Next come a couple of European politicians and race-supremacists. Le Pen is a proto-Nazi who looked on wishfully at Milosovic as he architected and implemented the genocide of Bosnians in the 90s. The last three are the self-referential, self-endorsing intellectual torch-bearers of the Muscular Liberal. Hitchens is the poster-boy of both the pro-war Left and Washington neocons and like Leo Strauss, an ex-Trot. Martin Amis is a boring duffer of impeccable literary pedigree who nowadays has nonsensical, bitter diatribes against Muslims published in the right-wing press. Mark Steyn is a hawkish neocon (is there any other kind of neocon?) who has made a career of demonising Muslims and is a Fox News talking head furniture-piece.

It is the collective work of the three intellectuals that has been pinpointed by the Indian author Mukul Kesavan in a gutsy sideswipe at the anti-Islamic rhetoric of which all the above are well known and well publicised exponents. The article has been published by the Calcutta Telegraph. It deserves international syndication, but at least it gets appraised by Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian.

What kind of rhetoric are we talking about?

Mark Steyn:

Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. In a democratic age, you can’t buck demography — except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out — as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosn-ia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.

Not to be outdone, here’s Martin Amis:

There’s a definite urge - don’t you have it? - to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation - further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children… They hate us for letting our children have sex and take drugs - well, they’ve got to stop their children killing people.

Given that that passage could have been written by Nick Griffin, I’d say Amis isn’t shy of displaying some characteristically fruity “Morally-Absolutist” ideas which are wholly endorsed by his mate, Christopher Hitchens. (Unspeak fisks Amis’ most recent bout of “Get out the Muzzy efniks” opprobrium).

This is Kesavan’s reaction to this execrable bravado:

To an Indian, this isn’t language that even the Bharatiya Janata Party would use in public. It’s the rhetoric of explicitly fascist parties: the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal. This ideological convergence in the ideas of the muscular European liberal and the militant Hindu fascist isn’t an aberration.

Kesavan also pulls the rug from under Hitchens’ ridiculous anti-Muslim Internationalism.

Towards the end of the review, Hitchens offers the West a ten-point programme for resisting Islamism. High on the list is this suggestion: “A strong, open alliance with India on all fronts, from the military to the political and economic, backed by an extensive cultural exchange program, to demonstrate solidarity with the other great multi-ethnic democracy under attack from Muslim fascism.”

In Hitchens’ bizarre world, the world’s largest pluralist democracy, home to the third-largest Muslim population in the world, would make common cause with the likes of Amis and Steyn whose prescriptions for saving civilization include systematic discrimination against Muslims, collective punishment, deportation and strategic “culling”. Hitchens argues that it’s important for liberals to stake out this rhetorical position because he doesn’t want anti-Islamism (his term for being anti-Muslim in a respectable way) to become the monopoly of fascists. Muscular liberals like Amis and Hitchens would deny them that space.

One can easily interpret Kesavan’s points in drawing parallels between these neo-Liberals and militant Hindu fascists as exaggerative. But it could also be argued that just as militant Hindus are usually upper-caste men fearful of assertive lower-caste groups, these European ‘Non-Relativists’ (a fallacious description of their politics if ever there was one) are no more than a few middle-aged pundits who are seething because their delicate balance of assumption and prepotence has been upset by recalctritant darkies.

83 Responses to “Muscular Liberalism and Indian Fascism”

  1. Annu Says:

    Sid, you write so well - chaliye jao!!!
    Two days ago Andrew and I were dscussing how brilliant your entries are.. shotti man, phatapati!

  2. sid Says:

    that’s the sweetest compliment I’ve had since someone said I look like VS Naipaul! Seriously tho, both you and Andrew are two of my favourite bloggers, thanks. chaliye jao!

  3. AsifY Says:

    I have to second Annu there! This was a much needed piece. I’ve been railing on about Hitchens’ myself. This guy is just crazy. His latest column on Slate argues that disbanding the Iraqi army was NOT a mistake, when even the hawkish neo-cons agree that it was.

    Absolutely irrelevant: I was a huge fan of Mukul Kesavan’s cricket column during the world cup. Hope to see many more pieces like this Sid!

  4. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Thanks AsifY.

    I will always be grateful to Hitchens for his analysis of Kissinger’s role in the genocide of 1971 and the assassination of Sheikh Mujib. On that regard he was the only liberal voice who took and articulated that issue for liberal Bangladeshis. But he’ll probably now argue that the ‘Trial of HK’ book is comensurate with the Neocon rejection of Kissinger’s real-politik. The funny thing is, common to both the Neocons and Kissinger, Hitchens makes only the most derisory distinction between Muslims and Islamists.

  5. tacit Says:

    It is a good post. I also get Hitchens through Slate, and I’m not too sold on his world-view, which I guess, is quite well described by muscular liberalism.

  6. Muzumdar Says:


    You really are an amateur polemicist. It is, however, enjoyable watching you embarrass yourself so pathetically.

    anti-Islamic rhetoric

    What is wrong with anti-Islamic rhetoric? This is post-Enlightenment Europe; religions are fair game for criticism. Perhaps if you had written ‘anti-Muslim rhetoric’, you may have had a point. But you didn’t. So you don’t.

    few middle-aged pundits who are seething because their delicate balance of assumption and prepotence has been upset by recalctritant darkies.

    You miss the point, spectacularly. This is not about race, this is about religion, ideology and politics. They are addressing the perceived threat of Islam, not coloured folk.

    A poor post to say the least.

    But thanks for directing me here, although you may live to regret it.

  7. Sid Says:


    Reread Steyn’s and Amis’ comments again and see if you can distinguish between anti-extremism and plain, old-school anti-Islamic/anti-darky racism. However, given your own, erm anti-Muslim slant well demonstrated on Pickled Politics (in spite of being serially deleted), I won’t be surprised if it simply goes over your head.

  8. Muzumdar Says:


    Your misplaced sense of victim hood is leading you to see things that are simply not there.

    plain, old-school anti-Islamic/anti-darky racism.

    You are confusing anti-Islamic stances with racism. Unless you are arguing that Muslims are a race (which they clearly are not), your argument is flawed. It is perfectly legitimate to be anti-Islam, nothing wrong with it whatsoever.

    If, as I think you are, you are trying to say that their inherent racism is manifesting itself in attacks on Islam and Muslims because a lot of them happen to be brown, then you are playing the psychic and your post is simply convoluted conjecture. And you would lose in any court of law (except perhaps a Shariah court).

    However, given your own, erm anti-Muslim slant well demonstrated on Pickled Politics (in spite of being serially deleted), I won’t be surprised if it simply goes over your head.

    I don’t deny that I am anti-Islam, never have. Name me any intelligent person who believes in winged mules flying into space and 58 year old holy men being told to break the hymen of a 9 year old girls at the behest of a sadistic sky-god? Not many.

    Your polemic didn’t go over my head, I just think your polemic is cataclysmically flawed: you must learn to distinguish between race and religion.

  9. Sid H Arthur Says:

    “cataclysmically flawed”? You really should refrain from turgid pleonasms when a single adjective will do perfectly.

    You talk about my sense of victimhood when your own victimhood of post-Partition Punjabi baggage is plain to see. Although I can sympathise with intra-generational grudge-bering, you really should sharpen your aim. Not all Muslims deprived your family of it’s land and proprty, you know.

    Hide behind Amis’ anti-Muslim prejudice if you will. But what Amis and his defenders are guilty of is the unwillingess to distinguish between Islam and Islamic extremism. And also the unwillingess to distinguish between Muslims and Islamist extremists.

    It’s a willful obtuseness on their part. And no amount of literary gymnastics can redeem them because it’s clear he’s apologised for getting caught out rather than for harbouring these feelings

  10. Muzumdar Says:

    You really should refrain from turgid pleonasms when a single adjective will do perfectly.

    Thanks. But excuse me if I refuse to take English lessons from a greased up, sheep romancing Bangladeshi peasant.

    You talk about my sense of victim-hood when your own victimhood of post-Partition Punjabi baggage is plain to see.

    I see. You lose the argument so seek to divert the topic on to completely unrelated matters. My ‘baggage’ has nothing to do with this thread. The very fact that you brought it up shows that you’re argument is collapsing.

    But what Amis and his defenders are guilty of is the unwillingess to distinguish between Islam and Islamic extremism.

    And can you really blame them? Islam’s blood drenched genocidal past, Muhammed’s massacres of Jews and pagans, Allah’s armies invading and plundering North Africa, Spain, Persia, the sub-continent - the so called ‘golden age’ of Islam - are all testament to the fact that Islam in itself is ‘extreme’.

    The only time when Islam is not a violent, genocidal ideology is when it is forced to adapt to more pacifist (sub-continental Sufism for example) or superior (the West) cultures.

    Of course, you will argue that I am wrong and that ‘Islam means peace’ (yawn). But the argument is there to be had.

    I’m sure you are familiar with sonia’s expose of Islam’s barbarity. You should take note.

  11. Sid H Arthur Says:

    But excuse me if I refuse to take English lessons from a greased up, sheep romancing Bangladeshi peasant.

    Hahaha. Well well well. It didn’t take much to scratch the “liberal, downtrodden immigrant” to expose the North Indian communal supremacist did it?

    Don’t blame me if you’ve just gone and made the point about Indian fascists, such as yourself, being the poor cousins of European Muscular Liberals for me, more completely than I could have done myself.

  12. anon Says:

    The European Union utterly failed Bosnia, which was in its very own “back yard.” So did the United Nations. So did the Clinton-Gore administration, for as long as it regarded Milosevic as “containable” by the use of sanctions. Bosnia did not cease to be a killing field, and Serbia did not cease to be an aggressive dictatorship until the United States armed forces took a hand. The neoconservatives, to their great honor, mostly supported an effort to prevent genocide being inflicted on Muslims: an enterprise in which Israeli interests were not involved.

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