When corpses lie about after a massacre, vultures descend to feast on them. After Anders Behring Breivik’s bomb-attack in downtown Oslo and shoot-out on the nearby island of Utøya, journalists and academics espousing the dominant ideology have indulged their ill-concealed euphoria at this unexpected occasion to smear a school of thought mentioned with partial approval in Breivik’s manifesto, viz. the critics of Islam. Among these exploiters of the massacre, we notice a number of secularists and other anti-Hindu polemicists from India. The most eloquent of these is probably Meera Nanda, fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Institute of Advanced Study, Delhi, who contributed an article to Open Magazine (4 August 2011), titled “Spiritual bedfellows. The Norway massacre and the Indian connection”.
Anders Breivik and Meera Nanda as Crusaders
Dr. Nanda starts with a brief description of the event: “On 22 July, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, set off bombs in the heart of Oslo. He then went on a shooting spree on a nearby island where young members of the Labor Party were holding a summer camp. All told, he killed 77 people that day, many in their teens. He targetted Labor Party youth because he saw them as part of a multicultural left-wing cabal that was allowing a Muslim takeover of Norway. In his view, they were ‘category A traitors’ who had to be eliminated to save Europe from Islam.”
The first thing to note in Prof. Meera Nanda’s opinion piece on the Oslo massacre is a tiny but telling detail, viz. her spelling “Labor Party”. In British and also in Indian English, as normally used in Open Magazine, the first word would have been spelled “Labour”. But her orthography betrays the American roots of her ideological orientation. In 2005-2007 she was in the employ of the John Templeton Foundation, an American Christian lobby-group that claims science as compatible with and even a product of Christianity. In that position and ever since, “Nanda has supported Protestantism as being scientific, while describing Hinduism as the exact opposite”, as Rajiv Malhotra points out. [Breaking India, Amaryllis, Delhi 2011, p.262]
It is not clear whether Meera Nanda has actually converted to Christianity or is merely one of those secularists who, after the fall and discrediting of Communism, have found new patronage in the US-centred Christian network. But fact is that she champions the Christian cause in India. And it explains the most remarkable oddity about her article on Anders Breivik’s massacre: she conceals from her Indian readership that the killer explicitly defines himself as a Christian. It was impossible to omit mentioning that he modeled himself on the Crusaders, but since the word “Crusade” has passed into general usage without necessary religious connotation, it needed explicitating that he goes out of his way to describe his own religious position as Christian. Not just a Christian by baptism, like myself, but a conscious Christian who, breaking with his secular family background, sought and received baptism in Norway’s Reformed (= Lutheran) Church at age 15.
As a self-styled warrior, he doesn’t lose much time on elaborate pieties, anymore than his Crusader and Templar role models did, but that doesn’t make him any less Christian. Indeed, he does take some time in his manifesto to discuss theology, e.g. to argue (as did many before him during the Romantic period) that the Protestant Churches ought to seek rapprochement with their Catholic mother Church. The Regular-Masonic Lodge of which he was a member required in its charter all members to be believing Christians. In spite of the attempts by American Christians to deny it (e.g. by Timothy Dalrymple http://www.patheos.com/community/philosophicalfragments/2011/07/25/was-anders-breivik-really-a-christian/ and by John Shore http://johnshore.com/2011/07/26/is-breiviks-blood-on-us/) and even to slanderously mislabel him as a “neopagan” (by Roland Shirk http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/07/who-benefits-whos-behind-it.html), Breivik was very much a Christian. If you’re looking for his counterparts in India, forget about the usual Hindutva bogeys and look for cross-bearers. Think of Swami Lakshmananda’s Maoist-trained Christian murderers, think of Sonia Gandhi, of John Dayal, of Father Dominic Emmanuel, and perhaps of Meera Nanda herself.
The apparent difference in attitude to Islam between neo-Crusaders in Europe and Christian activists in India stems from different circumstances. In Europe, Islam is emerging as the biggest threat to Christianity, bigger than secularism and even bigger than the persecution by the late Communist regimes. Whereas the soft secularism of European liberals (like that of the Nazis) has left Christians free to practise their religion even after losing their grip on the state; and whereas the hard secularism of the Communists had only offered a negative alternative, a void that Christianity has been able partly to fill up again; Islam offers a positive replacement for Christianity, one that can strike far deeper roots than secularism, one that can consign Christianity to the history books the way it did in North Africa ca. 700 CE or in Turkey more recently.
Short-sighted Christians welcome Islam as an ally against secularism, e.g. after the murder of Islam-critical filmmaker Theo van Gogh (2004) and the Danish Mohammed cartoon crisis (2006), the left-leaning Christian fundamentalist party Christen Unie in the Netherlands tried to use the high tide of Islamic activism against “blasphemy” to reactivate the country’s dormant anti-blasphemy law. But those Christians who can read demographic data and who are in touch with the persecuted fellow-Christians in Muslim countries, are alarmed at the rising presence of Islam in their midst.
In India, by contrast, the threat of lslam to Christianity is not that imminent. Locally, it is felt acutely and is provoking reactions similar to what Breivik dreamed of for Europe. Thus, in Nagaland, the Christian-dominated National Socialist Council of Nagalim has decreed the death penalty for Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants marrying native girls. In Kerala, after the 2001 census showed a decline in Christian (and Hindu) percentage in favour of the fast-growing Muslim community, some bishops have called on their flock to suspend their cooperation with the Government’s birth-control policy and have at least four children per couple. But in the well-to-do places frequented by JNU professors, the malodorous presence of idolatrous Hinduism is a more immediate concern. There, Islam is a welcome ally in a common minorities’ front against Hinduism. As long as both Islam and Christianity have Hindu society to prey upon, the latter acts as a buffer between the two. That is why a Templeton Foundation agent on a mission to demonize Hindu resistance seizes on this opportunity to criminalize criticism of Islam by associating it with Breivik.
[to be continued]