As a bad loser, Meera Nanda tries to score points on the side. She avoids the main fight, which is the irrational basis of Christianity and Islam. No, not the sorry record of these religions in India and in all Pagan lands, which is only secondary, but the fact that they are based on a truth claim which isn’t true. Christianity has incorporated a lot of things that make sense, but its basic belief as laid down in the Nicene creed is nonsense. We don’t even know whether Jesus existed, but at any rate he wasn’t the son or incarnation of God. We are not sure Mohammed existed, but we are very sure that he didn’t hear God’s voice to dictate to him the Quran. As a scientist, Meera Nanda ought to realize this. But she is in a contradictory situation: she is scientist enough not to believe all this nonsense, but her employers (and possibly her convictions) force her to uphold Christianity and Islam as at least superior to Hinduism. So, to do something about the effect of people (viz. myself) pointing out this contradiction, she doesn’t face them head-on but tries to hit them sideways, as by hiding behind Breivik or by the tested tactic of “guilt by association”.
Ever since I have been writing on secularism and religious conflict, and particularly about Islam, I have had plenty of mud thrown at me. What I have never seen so far is an actual refutation of my central theses. A few non-academic bloggers have tried to muster some arguments, and I have given them a reply in return in my books. So, those who try to take me on mostly do so with “guilt by association”. This rhetorical tactic is used by polemicists of all stripes, everywhere, and for thousands of years. In itself, it is not tied up with an ideology. Its greatest pioneers are the fishwife types, people who give colour to their humdrum existence by telling sensational tales, true or somewhat less true, about other people. When a fishwife sees how an unknown man rings the bell at the neighbouring woman’s door, and is welcomed in, she doesn’t need to go and listen at the door about what exactly is being said and done between the two of them. The mere fact that a man and a woman are together behind closed door is basis enough for a good story, the details can be filled in by the imagination.
However, on top of the universal dimension of this fishwife tactic, we do notice its popularity among Leftists. I have been a Leftist myself, I know the mentality. In a typically Leftist superstition, it is thought that opinions are contagious. They don’t hang out with people suspected of different opinions for fear of being contaminated. And this is really possible in their case, as their doctrine may not be very strong. Why, I myself lost my Leftist convictions after (apart from negative experiences) sufficient exposure to alternatives. So when they see someone speak with a Rightist party, they genuinely believe that he must be of the same opinion. The idea that different-minded people might have something to tell each other, just doesn’t occur to Leftists.
In my case, Meera Nanda avoids a head-on confrontation with the points I made and instead tries to couple me with less-than-respected political parties and movements: the Vlaams Belang party (Flemish Interest, formerly Vlaams Blok, i.e. Flemish Bloc), Flemish nationalism in general, and the New Right: “It so happens that Koenraad Elst has one foot firmly in the European New Right and the other foot in the Hindu New Right spawned by the VoI school. In Europe, he is considered a ‘leading Orientalist’, and writes frequently for The Brussels Journal, a European nationalist anti-Islamic blog, cited repeatedly by Breivik in his manifesto. Elst has also worked with think-tanks and publications suspected of links with Belgium’s far right, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant party, Vlaams Belang.”
So, last but not least, she “links” me to the “far-right, anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant party, Vlaams Belang”, though not directly. That is of course the safest: she knows that she can easily be found out as a liar if she links me directly to a political party, so she does it indirectly. Well, I can put the same thing more charitably, and thank her for not directly linking me to a political party. After all, she could easily have gotten away with one more false statement, she has far more institutional support than I do.
The basis in reality of the allegation is this: in 1992 I spoke on Islam before a Vlaams Blok audience. This went by unconspicuously, but one year later it was reported in the tabloid De Morgen, where I was called an “ideologist” of the party. All claims linking me to the party go back to this one article. In reality, my ideology and the party’s were at loggerheads, even on the issue of Islam. Thus, I pleaded for an immersion of Islamic pupils in the European school system and culture, whereas the party at the time wanted to keep Islamic pupils in a separate school system (just as the Mullahs wanted) in preparation of their return. VB-watchers logically made fun of the party’s intellectual poverty, that they could not find better guests than such as would explicitate their dissident opinions; in my case even a long-haired hippy known to frequent coloured types.
With my appearance at a Vlaams Blok gathering, I had breached the cordon sanitaire. Strictly, the cordon pertained to politicians making (non-existent) coalitions with the Vlaams Blok, but in effect it also counted for intellectuals merely talking with them. And that is the very reason why I did what I did. When I look back those twenty years now, I am not sure I would speak to a Vlaams Blok gathering, because I would not want to make it so easy for the Meera Nanda’s of this world to avoid the real issue through guilt by association. At that time, I thought that there was no way my own position could be confused with the party’s, my writing was after all clear enough. Now I know better: nobody cares about what you write (few people read it in the first place), not even intellectuals like Meera Nanda, but they will remember all the better before what audience you read it out; that is the way of the world. But back then, what disturbed me was that Communists forgetful about their own crimes had decreed the cordon, which was a clear breach of freedom of opinion. They had even hijacked the name of the anti-Communist Czech platform Charta 77 as Charta 91. That is why I just had to accept the Vlaams Blok invitation: to make a gesture against this neo-Communist attack on the democratic polity. Of course the slander that befell me as a consequence will never happen to a conformist like Meera Nanda; indeed it is committed by her kind.
After that, many leftists and middle-of-the-road people broke off relations with me, and I lost a lot of job opportunities. Some people saw they had been duped but continued to avoid me, this time out of shame, but the result was the same: my social life became so much the poorer. Association with the wrong party comes at a price, which is one of the reasons I treat Meera Nanda as a debtor. But when the same paper, through the pen of a practicing neo-Pagan priest and Socialist Party activist repeated its allegation in 1999 (with nothing as his source but the paper’s own reporting from 1993), the reaction was zero or positive. By that time, everybody knew the paper was lying. And more recent references to me have not repeated the allegation either. For instance, when Russian TV interviewed me on Belgian affairs, coincidentally a day after the Breivik affair, De Morgen described me as a “new-rightist separatist”: that is not true either, but it is vague and I can live with it. When Belgian nationalists tried to exploit the mentioning of my name by Breivik, they called me a Flemish separatist or so, but the link to that party was absent. So, the imputed connection between myself and this party is dead for more than a decade among all people in the know, including my enemies.
The English Wikipedia, however, contains, thanks to Sanjay Subramaniam, a false statement: “According to Sanjay Subrahmanyam, he has connections to the far-right Vlaams Blok”. I have no such connections, nor half-connections or part-connections. But the blot on the encyclopedia’s fair name is not just in the wrongness of the statement, but in its partisan and non-encyclopedic nature. Among other things, Sanjay Subramaniam is neither an expert on me nor on Belgian politics, so he should not have been quoted in an encyclopedia at any rate.
Who is this Sanjay Subramaniam? He was exposed in my book Ayodhya, the Case against the Temple, ch.4.3. as just another Nehruvian academic who does what his kind does best, viz. bluffing and lying: “So, practically every word in Subramaniam’s evaluation [of Arun Shourie’s book Eminent Historians] is malicious and untrue.” (p.46) He was also nominated by the BJP in 2002-04 when they set up a chair for Indian Studies in Oxford. As I had predicted, the BJP did not pursue “saffronization”, the way its enemies alleged, but a pat on the shoulder by its enemies. Of course this never materialized, but the prospect was enough to make the BJP nominate one of its known critics. At any rate, Sanjay Subramaniam was the face of saffronization, and of the BJP’s stupidity. Then I exposed him again in my book The Saffron Swastika, ch.7.2-7 for his slanderous attacks on Leftist Islam critics like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the murdered Theo Van Gogh. Exposed as a liar, he saw no other way out than Meera Nanda, viz. to shoot at the messenger.
But no matter what he says, I have never been a member or employee of the VB. Repeat: never. I have been a member of the Christian-Democratic party in 2000-2010 and have been a member of Christian-Democratic social organizations since the 1970s. In 1999, the Christian-Democrats narrowly lost the elections and were thrown out of government after more than four decades; I thought it was finally a good time for reform. Unfortuntely I took ill right after becoming a party member, and the party was never far enough from power to allow for real reform, so nothing came of my quixotic reform plan. But if you want my real political affinity, there it is.
If Wikipedia wants to live up to its promise of being a reliable encyclopedic source, it will strike this and all sentences resembling it from its article on me. At most, it can use me as an example of how it was fooled by some of its all-too-partisan collaborators. Speaking of whom: the history page accompanying my page proves forever that some Wikipedia collaborators wanted to inflict on me the maximum harm possible, an attitude incompatible with work for an encyclopedia. Shouldn’t Wikipedia fire them and wipe out everything they wrote? Of course they can still contribute blogs and columns, by preference under their own full names, but they have proven themselves not to be encyclopedic authorities.
Incidentally, other Wikipedia entries refute the said allegation. The English Wikipedia, entry Anders Behring Breivik, mentions me among his host of “sources of inspiration”, but refrains from linking me to any political party or movement. It would have liked to if it could, but it could not. So to put me down in a different manner, it calls me a “neo-Pagan writer”. That too is an insult and meant as one; it does not call the Islamic scholar Daniel Pipes “the Jew Daniel Pipes” and rightly so: Breivik or his sources quote us for we for what we authoritatively say on Islam, not for our real or imagined religious beliefs.
The Dutch Wikipedia, entry Brussels Journal, relying on better-informed sources than a Sanjay Subramaniam, has a chapter on relations with political parties. It notes that the press tends to associate BJ with the VB because founder Paul Beliën’s wife is an MP for the VB and because “there is also a strong similarity between Beliën’s and the VB’s thinking, though in the last few years, the relation between the VB and Beliën has been rather tense.” And then it adds: “There are also writers and contributors, like Flemish law scholar Matthias Storme, who is a member of the N-VA [a rival party], orientalist Koenraad Elst, former VRT [Flemish TV] reporter Jan Neckers, libertarian VLD [another rivaling party] blogger Luc Van Braekel and others who are not VB members and express other opinions.” Incidentally, Paul Beliën left the Brussels Journal well before the Breivik affair; the paper is now managed by Luk Van Braekel.
But my own entry, while rather silent about the main things I have done, starts out by associating me with yet another political movement, the Nouvelle Droite, viz. by the factual observation that I had been a board member of TeKoS, a Flemish Nouvelle Droite quarterly, in 1992-95. So Meera Nanda adds that I have “one foot firmly in the European New Right”.
The wrongest word there is “firmly”. Those who know me, acknowledge that I am not so firm in my engagement with groups and movements; I am only firm in being an Orientalist. In this case too, the years mentioned should already have alerted readers to my not-so-firm beliefs in the Nouvelle Droite (which Meera Nanda translates as New Right). Also, there were only two board meetings yearly, which were merely social occasions, because the owner took all the decisions.
Apart from TeKoS, I only contributed a single article to any Nouvelle Droite publication, viz. to their flagship publication Nouvelle Ecole, where in 2001 I contributed a defence of the Out-of-IndiaTheory, directly flying in the face of the Nouvelle Droite position (which is very pro-AIT) and answered on the spot by both Alain de Benoist, their mastermind, and Jean Haudry, their specialist on Indo-European matters. It is a good thing that they are more open-minded than the Indian secularists, but that shouldn’t obscure our differences.
That can be generalized: though I published in the Nouvelle Droite publication TeKoS, Meera Nanda and her friends will have a hard time finding articles of mine where I develop the typical Nouvelle Droite themes, such as identity. There are even articles where I lambast the Nouvelle Droite (or the Vlaams Belang, for that matter), but they are in Dutch, which I surmise Meera Nanda does not read. Note however that it is her own unsolicited conceit that she is a specialist on the thoughts of Koenraad Elst.
Remark that Meera Nanda is silent about the leftist Islam critics. Yet, they have everything to do with it. My first article on and against Islam was in 1989 in Toestanden, a Communist weekly. My first lectures about and against Islam were for several departments of the Masereelfonds, a Communist cultural foundation. You won’t find it in my Wikipedia entry, of course, but I have the evidence. In the 1990s, the Left didn’t know what to do with Islam and looked the other way, but in recent years, leftist intellectuals have come out in large numbers to say out loud that there is something wrong with Islam. Thus, in my country, people like Etienne Vermeersch, Geert Van Istendael, Benno Barnard, Luckas Vander Taelen, Patrick De Witte, and many others have published articles critical of Islam, initially against their friends’ circle, but increasingly with approval. Meera Nanda might not know this, but even and especially if she did, she would not mention it because it doesn’t fit her story of a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Let us conclude with a final example of how wrong she can be. From here, we will also use Meera Nanda’s article “Hindu triumphalism”, published in the Economic and Political Weekly, July 2009, distinguishing between (Nanda 2011) and (Nanda 2009). In it, she tries to prove her accusation of my “links” with both the VB and the Nouvelle Droite by writing: “Indeed, the editor-in-chief of TeKoS, Luc Pauwels, was one of the founders of the Vlaams Belang”.
Luc Pauwels, whose father spent the war as a prisoner in Buchenwald, was the editor of TeKoS till about 2001 and volunteered to be the Secretary of the Vlaamse Volkspartij (Flemish People’s Party), one of the splinters after the Volksunie (People’s Union) compromised itself in 1978. After the party’s President, Lode Claes, failed to get elected, the party died out and some of its members joined the Vlaams-Nationale Partij (Flemish National Party), the other splinter with whom the Vlaamse Volkspartij had contracted an electoral agreement known as the Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc). Now, during the vote on this alliance, arguably the basis of the Vlaams Blok, the Vlaamse Volkspartij was split roughly in half: the bigger half, in favour of the bloc, was led by the Party President, Lode Claes, while the smaller half, voting against the bloc, was led by the Party Secretary, Luc Pauwels. So, when making the point that Luc Pauwels had co-founded the Vlaams Blok, Meera Nanda is as mistaken as she can be. She could still have said that Luc Pauwels was a known rightst or so, but she chose to link him to the wrong party. I don’t hold it against her that she is ignorant about something as unimportant as Belgian politics, only that she pretends to be a specialist in the matter.As for myself, I am my own man, not a party man. I deserve to have my viewpoints examined not on their real or imagined associations but on their merits. I want my real and stated positions attacked, not those at my declared enemies' convenience.