By Paul Beckett
The idea of a clash of civilizations – a phrase typically used to denote what some see as a winner-takes-all battle between “western values” and fundamentalist Islam – is now a topic of debate here and in the U.S. thanks to an extraordinary op-ed by political gadfly and Harvard Summer School teacher Subramanian Swamy.
Subramanian Swamy penned down a controversial op-ed, soon after the Mumbai bombings. Above, police officers at one of the blast sites in the city.
His controversial piece, published in DNA, a Mumbai newspaper, July 16, followed the most recent deadly bombings in Mumbai. Police have no suspects but are focusing their attention on an Indian Islamist group called Indian Mujahideen.
Mr. Swamy, however, doesn’t note that, so far, there is no one to blame or any apprehended suspects. His column includes such inflammatory statements as “Muslims of India are being programmed by a slow reactive process to become radical and thus slide into suicide against Hindus.” He suggests that only Muslims in India who “acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus” should be allowed to vote. We might pause here to note that India, under its Constitution, is established as a pluralistic society.
Mr. Swamy, in a telephone interview from Harvard, said that he didn’t have a process in mind whereby Muslims could profess to their Hindu ancestry but he wanted to know that, if asked, they would say “yes.”
For good measure, he accuses Sonia Gandhi, president of the ruling Congress party, of being “semi-literate.” When asked to define semi-literate, he said it was somebody who “can just read and write.” That would appear to define literacy, but he termed her semi-literate because to be fully literate she “would have read some books, read some philosophy, have a world view.”
He also suggests in the op-ed that the Kashmir Valley be settled with ex-servicemen to demonstrate a sort of civilian shock-and-awe campaign that would establish it as Hindu and Indian once and for all.
Oh yes, he also wants to make it illegal to convert from Hinduism. If that sounds unconstitutional, he clarified in the interview that this would only apply to induced conversion.
In the piece, he also brings in the Jews, noting: “If the Jews could be transformed from lambs walking meekly to the gas chambers to fiery lions in just 10 years,” then India can solve its “terrorist problem” in five years.
When asked if that might be offensive to Jews, he said in the interview that he is a “great supporter of Israel.” He also noted that his brother-in-law is Jewish, his son-in-law Muslim, his sister-in-law Christian and his wife Parsi.
Mr. Swamy’s views have stoked several protests, including a petition circulating at Harvard seeking that the storied university repudiate his remarks and terminate Mr. Swamy’s employment as a summer Economics teacher. The petition accuses him of being a “bigoted promoter of communalism in India.”
It adds: “The highly insulting and stereotypical nature of his comments suggest that he cannot be trusted to regard Muslims — and no doubt other groups–with anything but a jaundiced eye.”
The Harvard Crimson, the university’s newspaper, said in an article dated today that 200 signatories had signed the petition. The article said that the dean of Harvard Summer School will examine the issue.
“Professor Swamy is a long-time member of the Harvard Summer School faculty who previously was a member of the Department of Economics here,” a spokesman for the Dean was quoted as saying. “We will give this matter our serious attention.”
When asked if he planned to continue teaching at Harvard, Mr. Swamy said: “Let others decide and tell me.” In the interview. he characterized his critics and those who signed the petition as “Communists; they are all pro-Soviet.”
Source: Wall Street Journal