March 24, 2016

Sandernistas, Tulsi Gabbard, bigotry, smears and Manichean eyeballs

Tulsi Gabbard
Trust me, folks. As is my wont, I'll string all five of those together before I'm done.

Sandernistas was a more serious, non-stereotyping term for Bernie Sanders backers long before Berniebros was made into a caricature by Clintonistas. Jeff St. Clair of Counterpunch was using the term nine months ago. That said, St. Clair, writing for a true left-liberal site, pivoted from saying that he had warmed to Sanders as a cudgel against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Establishment to noting that Sanders was still part of that Democratic establishment on Israel and other things, as part of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.

OK, we're at Democratic Establishment. That leads to Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and her endorsement of Bernie. She was vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, but over various conflicts DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz over management of this year's primary cycle, and a desire to openly endorse Sanders, she resigned her DNC spot.

Unfortunately, Gabbard is also arguably an Islamophobic supporter of India's ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, or BJP, or at least a Hinduphilic to the point of accepting BJP's discrimination against other religions, as the BJP is also enabling by silence the persecution of Christians in India. Or worse.

As Wikipedia notes, the BJP is joined at the hip with the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh, normally shortened to RSS. The RSS has been banned multiple times in India, the last ones arguably unconstitutional, but the former ones of concern. (At partition, the RSS refused to accept the Indian flag, the tricolor of today, since it includes "Muslim" green.) It also opposed the Indian Constitution guaranteeing equality to all Hindu castes, a stance which I don't think it has repudiated today, although it has called for various social uplift programs for lower castes — but only within Hindu structures.

Unfortunately, Sanders has yet to repudiate this endorsement.
Refusing to repudiate current coups is bad enough, as the lack of a foreign policy revolution; continuing to accept the endorsement of an Islamophobe is even worse. And, that's a selective reading of Gabbard, just and only on her opposing U.S. attempts to overthrow Assad in Syria.

Back to that "worse" link. The RSS and affiliates have been alleged to been involved in anti-Christian as well as anti-Muslim riots. Multiple Indian states have anti-conversion laws of some sort, and they've all been pushed by the BJP, as the political party representing RSS Hindu nationalism interests.

Contra an insinuation in comments, these laws are NOT about preventing forced conversions of Hindus, how much or how little that happened under the British Raj or earlier. Rather, they're to prevent the free evangelizing activity of Christians, and to a lesser degree, of Muslims. The only actual forced conversions in India at this time are forced conversions BY Hindus. Let's remember that as we read on.

(In all of this, it is worth noting, as etymology hints, that Hinduism is seen by RSS types — and arguably rightly in some ways — as a cultural/sociological structure as much as a religion.)

While not involving the same level of punishment as in, say, Saudi Arabia, these laws do allow for criminal penalties upon violation.

Doug Henwood, in the first half of this podcast, talks in depth about the BJP, the RSS and the charge of fascism, with Benjamin Zachariah, a professor of modern Indian history at the University of Trier.

Let's add, to further undercut the ground of commenter Hari, that she spoke at a BJP-related fundraiser for her. (Corrected; I originally called it a fundraiser for the BJP.)

Her speech starts about 10 minutes in. She speaks for about a dozen minutes, a long time, and far more than just courtesy comments.

Either ironically or hypocrically, she talks, at about the 15:30 mark, about people "struggling to worship" halfway across the globe. I guess those don't include Muslims or Christians in India.

She's also been called "the Sangh's (RSS's) mascot" by an Indian newspaper.

Both these and more come from a Quartz India piece on her, with analysis at top, interview with her at bottom.

In that Quartz piece, she says a couple of things I find eyebrow-raising. The first is:
While there is no doubt there is some discrimination directed toward different “religious minorities” in India, throughout India you will find Muslims, Christians, and people of all kinds of religions free to practice their faith. 
Um, no. Not true. The Gujarat violence against Muslims and the Orissa violence against Christians alone undercuts that. The no-conversion laws are further prove otherwise.

Then, there’s this:
There are many Hindus in America who feel they need to convert to Christianity or take “Christian” names if they or their children are to succeed in this country.
Sounds purely anecdotal. Maybe it was true a century ago, as with other East and South Asian immigrants? Today? I highly, no very highly, doubt it; sounds like it’s more propaganda for BJP-run India.

She then claims to have “met with” Congress Party as well as BJP members.

Erm, call me when she speaks 15 minutes at a Congress Party fundraiser for her.

This is all important to note, because there's a lot of Indian flak-writers (sic on spelling) out there working hard to spin all of this. They will claim that Gabbard has met with members of Congress as well as BJP. That may be true, but it still doesn't explain why she led the charge to block House Resolution 417, which specifically mentioned attacks on Christians as well as Muslims. It's a surprise that any Indian PR flak group would actually link to the resolution because of that, precisely since it undercuts claims about what it's about, including the insinuation that its original sponsor was Keith Ellison, America's one Muslim Congressman. Actually, it was introduced by a non-Muslim conservative Republican, with Joe Pitts even being at least fairly much part of the Religious Right.

I'm not a Christian, I'm a secularist. But, I point out the Hindu nationalist attacks on Muslims as well as Christians, and the bill's mention of that, to try to remove the claim that HR 417 was giving cover to radical Islam or something. Besides that, secularists have occasionally faced problems, too. And, also showing that I'm not making this up, native Indians like renowned novelist Arundhati Roy have spoken out against religious violence — which started after the BJP came back into power.

The PR spin also fails to explain why people politically connected to her, and Indian or Indian-American, are BJP-connected. Like wearing a BJP party sash, in the picture.

So, we've now covered bigotry. It's on to smears.

At least some Sandernistas who slaver over Gabbard's endorsement of Sanders have passed around the anti-Semitic smears against the author of that piece, Zaid Jilani, that eventually got him bounced from the Center for American Progress. (Jewish organizations not part of the Israel-first lobby, like Mondoweiss, have defended Jilani.)

Other smears come from at least one Indian PR flak attacking HR 417, claiming that, besides Muslims pushing it, other backers were Marxists. The BJP, as one might — and should — expect, is politically right-wing in general. More, from The Jacobin, on why cries of Marxism would so resonate with BJP backers.

Coincidentally, or not, the president of Center for American Progress — where Jilani worked before being sacked after being subject to those anti-Semitic smears — Neera Tanden, is herself Indian American. Uncoincidentally, she is a Clintonista.

As for the claim that the resolution was interfering in Indian internal affairs? Tosh. First, it was only a resolution, nothing more, therefore there was no interference. Second, Congress has passed similar resolutions on religious freedom against other countries. Indeed, it even passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998.

Finally, her claim that ISIS et al act purely out of religious belief and that poverty and social isolation aren't other factors is a flat-out like, convincingly refuted by the likes of Scott Atran, and, in the wake of the Brussels bombings, underscored by Belgium's Molenbeek ghetto, which, in turn, reflects the problems of the quasi-nation of Belgium itself.

Back to the other "-istas."

The Sandernistas often seem unwilling to actually see things in broader context, viewing this campaign through a quasi-Manichean lens, as Sanders vs. Clinton, period — Ormazd vs Ahriman.

Not I.

First, I vote for ideas before people. Second, I view very little in life in terms of such dichotomous polarities.

I want Sandernistas, as Clinton moves closer and closer to clinching the Democratic nomination, to start talking seriously about Plan B, that is, voting for Jill Stein or whomever the Green Party nominates. Unfortunately, I'm despairing more and more of the depth of insight of many of them, and the willingness of them to vote for ideas, rather than an individual. That's even more problematic when Stein, or another Green nominee, is not part of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.

But, if you don't want to think in terms of Plan B, especially if you don't want to open your eyes outside the two-party box, you're not wanted anyway. Beyond that, this is yet another sign of how horrific the national Democratic party has become, that a fairly challenged challenger like Bernie Sanders is this popular, and often, uncritically popular.

As for Sandernistas trying to defend her, or his not refuting the endorsement?

Let's take one I just heard on Twitter, that "she's a U.S. politician, not an Indian one."

I already had an analogy in the holster, ready for a quick draw.

I said:

And, that's exactly how I see it.

As for blanket Gabbard defenders who think this is either anti-India or anti-Hindu? Rot.

If you're an Indian-American, the answer is simple. Push BJP and its RSS backstop to allow true freedom of religion. Tell friends if they don't, to vote Congress or other secular political parties.

And, if you don't believe BJP restricts freedom of religion? You're wrong. And at some point, rather than continuing to post new comments in reply to yours, I''m going to stop allowing comments.


paintedjaguar said...

I'd wondered what Gabbard's ethnic background was.

"at least one Indian PR flak".
You meant to say "PR flack". PR flacks who throw out political flak.
Looks like another entry for the Eggcorn Database.

Gadfly said...

Right. This guy was bad enough ... I deliberately went with the "misspelling" spelling. Maybe I should drop a "sic" on that. Making up every excuse in the world. That's why I added the attacks on Christians and secularists to Jilani's original.

I didn't know her ethnic background, or type of Hindu belief, before this.

It's something ... halfway related to Hare Krishnas.

Hari said...

Gabbard is neither a supporter of the BJP, or a Islamophobe, since she has warm relations with members of the Congress party in addition to the BJP in what she says is her desire to have better US-India relationships and she has clearly said "I am a very firm believer in the Aloha spirit -- respect and love for everyone, irrespective of their religion, race, gender, or any other external differences."

Where's the proof that people connected to her are only BJP related, oh because you have that picture of her with a BJP supporter? I have many picture of Obama hugging Modi warmly, does that make him a BJP supporter?

There's definitely violence on minorities in India and Gabbard has acknowledge as such, but the timing of the HR 417 resolution was what constituted the interference with India's Internal affairs as it coincided with the elections in India and of course that would have harmed US-India relationships, had Modi won, since HR417 was directed against Modi and Modi did win by a landslide.

HR417 was opposed by Clinton backer Rep. Mike Honda and other members of the House Foreign Affairs committee, including the chair Rep. Ed Royce, for the same prescient reason - that it would harm US-India relationships [Royce and Honda have both supported other religious freedom bills]

Gabbard has said that the root cause of ISIS is it's ideology, not that other factors are not at play and to defeat ISIS, we need to address the root cause. She has also said that we need to make a distinction between the radical ideology that fuels ISIS and Muslims who peacefully practice the religion of Islam as a spiritual path.

Gadfly said...

Hari: I've already addressed all of your objections. As for the religious trouble-causing issues, I'll take the facts of the matter on the ground, including the fact that it goes beyond anti-Muslim violence.

You never did, at that other site, address the anti-conversion laws because you know you can't.

It would harm US-India relations if India chose to make it so. You also ignore that it would do nothing to "interfere with India's affairs." I've pointed this out before, therefore I have no problem with saying you're lying.

As for the more complex causes of ISIS, I'll take experts in the field's thoughts over yours.

Jaguar: This person is the reason I deliberately misspelled "flak." He also, while resenting my insinuation that he was one, on another blog, never directly denied that he was.

Hari said...

I haven't studied the anti-conversion laws in India to make a clear argument on it but I understand the need to discourage forced conversion given India's long history of forced conversions of Hindus by Islamic invaders from the middle-east and by British Christians who later ruled India. As I understand it, they also serve to prevent Hindus from forcibly converting other minorities to Hinduism.

I'm an Indian-American engineer who likes Tulsi very much and am happy to stand up to a real PR flack like you with their own blogs to spread their biases.

I'm wondering why you haven't berated Clinton backer Mike Honda or others for opposing this bill? It seems to me that you are targeting Tulsi Gabbard only because she's a Hindu.

Gadfly said...

First, thanks for identifying yourself.

Second, the anti-conversion laws have accelerated in recent yearsl. They're generally NOT about preventing "forced conversions." Rather, they're about preventing Muslims, and even more, preventing Christians, from evangelizing Hindus.

Per Wiki, the U.S. State Department agrees with me:

That link also notes that the BJP wants a national anti-conversion law.

My focus is in Gabbard because I think a lot of Sanders backers think that she's something that she isn't, just because she resigned her DNC position to support him.

Gadfly said...

While we're at this, per another blog post of mine you dug up. I totally stand by my claim that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are not religions of peace. The same is true of Hinduism.

Does that make them religions of war? No, unless you crudely view things in the world in terms of polarities only. But, they're not religions of peace.

Otherwise, see the last three paragraphs of the updated blog post.

paintedjaguar said...

Ah well. You should check out the "eggcorn" site sometime anyhow, it's amusing. It isn't just misspellings, it's plausible errors. Like "tow the line" instead of "toe the line".