In recent years, every once in a while, but with some regularity, a comparison gets made equating right-wing Hindus and the Taliban.
Every time I hear this I inevitably and uncontrollably utter “really?!?”
I can’t believe I have to say this, but the ludicrousness of the comparison is so great that I wonder if the person making such a statement actually knows anything about Hindus, Hinduism, or the Taliban.
On the small chance that anyone doesn’t know who the Taliban are: they are a religious-political and military movement in Afghanistan originating from seminaries promoting Deobandi Islam, an orthodox school which started in India in the colonial period that promotes a strict adherence to Sharia and 7th century Islamic practices as the only path the salvation.
Taliban received training in camps in Pakistan. After being ousted from power by the US and its allies in the early 2000s (after having been supported by the same group in the preceding decades because they were fighting a common enemy in the form of the USSR, even meeting Ronald Reagan at the White House, but that’s another story), the Taliban have just again seized political and cultural control.
When in power the Taliban have: blown up the Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, seeing them as blasphemous as are all statues; forced women into a second tier role in society, forcing them to wear burqa, refusing to allow them to work outside the home or for girls to get an education; forced young women to marry members of the military; forced men to grow beards; forced boys into the military against their will; prohibited television, soccer, kite flying and a host of other recreational activities; destroyed priceless Afghan antiquities, books, and other objects in what can rightly be called a cultural genocide.
The price for violating any of these hardline Islamist prohibitions has often been public, corporal punishment, amputations, and other forms of violence.
Perhaps needless to say, religious minorities in Afghanistan — Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and a miniscule number of Jews — have all been actively persecuted. Hindus and Sikhs, for instance, were forced to wear dehumanizing yellow stars/markings publicly identifying themselves under the prior Taliban regime.
In recent weeks, members of these communities that have tried to flee have been told they cannot leave the country (though many escaped before this dictate could be enforced).
Think about that last part for a second.
Even amongst the most hardline Hindus — those people who think Muslims aren’t fully Indians or that Muslim culture has only been a destructive force throughout its history in India — I dare say you’ll find not one who would say that Muslims aren’t Indian yet need to stay in the country so they can be properly persecuted.
You will definitely find some Hindus who believe mosques that have been built on the ruins of Hindu temples that had been destroyed by historic Muslim rulers ought to be taken down and a Hindu temple rebuilt.
But you’re not going to find many that are going to enforce women not wearing nail polish by amputating part of a finger. You’re not going to find many that believe young girls should be forced into marriage with members of the military, or that women are legally required to be with a male relative and entirely covered in a suffocating head-to-toe cloak with only a small slit for the eyes when in public. You’re not going to find many, or any, who believe there should be religious police going around in the street beating women who fail to comply with these rules. You’re just not.
That’s not to say that there aren’t Hindus whose views on the role of women in society, or Western cultural influences, don’t seem rather retrograde. There are conservative religious groups in the US, of many faiths, who seem just as retrograde to me.
But if you can’t make a moral distinction between that form of recalcitrant cultural conservatism and the Taliban, you have either 1) lost your moral compass, 2) believe words have no real world reference point, or 3) are deliberately obfuscating to make your own political point because you don’t like Hindus nor the present government of India. In some cases it’s no doubt all three.
If it’s not already there, as a dictionary example of ‘false equivalency’, conservative Hindus are the same thing as the Taliban ought to be near the top of the list.