India Uncut

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Nationalism, not religion

Chandrahas points me to a piece by Pankaj Mishra in the New York Times that he feels, in the light of this post, might interest me. Mishra writes:
The destructive potential of modern nationalism should not surprise us. Traditional religion hardly played a role in the unprecedented violence of the 20th century, which was largely caused by secular ideologies - Nazism and Communism. Secular nationalism has been known to impose intellectual conformity and suppress dissent even in advanced democratic societies. In America, it was at least partly the fear of being perceived as unpatriotic that held back the freest news media in the world from rigorously questioning the official justification for and conduct of the war in Iraq.

As for traditional religion, outside Saudi Arabia and Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban it has rarely enjoyed the kind of overwhelming state power that modern nationalism has known. Then why reflexively blame religion for the growth of intolerance and violence?
Excellent point. I often write about how I oppose both the socialist left and the religious right in India, but perhaps I need to change the latter phrase to "nationalistic right."

Note that I am not against having a sense of identity based on things like being Indian or French or German, as Sandeep seems to think here. (Our sense of identity is essentially involuntary anyway.) But insisting that others conform to these notions, and any kind of coercion that accompanies that insistence, is wrong. Coercion is at the heart of all injustices inflicted by us on other members of our species.
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