The Liberals Are Now The New Bigots

by Hari Ravikumar - Jan 28, 2016 12:11 AM +05:30 IST
The Liberals Are Now The New Bigots

People who are liberals by the text-book definition of the word, feel embarrassed to use that term since the champions of liberalism in India and around the world are slowly turning out to be the new  bigots.

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Do you believe in equality and freedom? Do you think that men and women should get equal opportunities? Do you believe in having an open discussion about issues that affect society? Do you oppose fanaticism of any kind – religious, social, economic, or political? Do you think everyone should have the opportunity to follow their own traditions and faiths?

If you do, then by definition, you are a liberal. But for many Indians who align with the so-called centre-of-right (or right), ‘liberal’ has become a bad word. This is simply because the champions of liberalism in India and around the world are slowly turning out to be the new conservatives, or rather, the new bigots.

News of the Dadri event was so loud on Indian media that it made ripples even in the shores of the West. It was the starting point for several litterateurs and filmmakers returning their awards and setting in motion the machinery of manufactured intolerance.

It seems wholly possible that Dadri had nothing to do with either beef or Islam but was a personal act of revenge as was reported in The Quint but the new bigots consistently spoke of Dadri as one of the horrifying events that has taken place in post-Independence India.

The Liberals Are Now The New Bigots

After the Bihar elections, the manufacturing intolerance machine needed rest and re-oiling. Our agents of intolerance became silent. Awards were not returned anymore since the country had become peaceful overnight. But all through that phase, West Bengal – soon we may have to call it East Pakistan – was in a state of unrest.

Then the Kaliachak riots broke out in the district of Malda. People killed, infrastructure destroyed, and the town torn apart thanks to a rampage of 2,50,000 angry Muslims. The reason? They were upset about a statement made by a largely unknown student leader in response to a jibe of a politician from Uttar Pradesh.

While the new bigots cried hoarse about Dadri, the Kaliachak riots didn’t tickle them to register even a token protest. A couple of weeks later, a non-descript student commits suicide in Hyderabad and the machinery, now well-oiled, swings back into action.

This worrying trend of the new bigot is not restricted to India. On New Year’s Eve, in Cologne, hundreds of refugees (from West Asia and North Africa) molested, sexually assaulted, and raped German women. As Lara Prendergast points out in her piece in The Spectator, the feminist columnists of The Guardian were busy hurling verbal bouncers at Chris Gayle for chatting up a woman journalist; the Cologne attacks didn’t merit their attention.

The Liberals Are Now The New Bigots

When they finally deigned to write about Cologne, they peddled apologist views, in essence saying that since these men are from a different culture, we should not judge them too harshly. Deborah Orr’s benignly titled piece, The left must admit the truth about the assaults on women in Cologne says-

Men who have been raised to believe that only a worthless woman walks through the street alone – even when her head and body are covered – only come to an understanding that this is not the case through consistent intellectual effort.

In other words, “It’s not their fault. They are raised to believe that women are lower than men.” The title of Gaby Hinsliff’s article is bolder and even tries to put on a show of honesty – Let’s not shy away from asking hard questions about the Cologne attacks – but is no different in import. She says-

Too often anti-immigrant feeling stems from what’s really a long-running failure of the state – to protect children at risk, to provide enough social housing or school places, to police what has reportedly been a rough area of Cologne for years – which becomes more visible as the population grows.

Her spiel being, “It’s not their fault. It’s our faulty worldview.” But when British astrophysicist Matt Taylor wore a garish Hawaiian shirt which had drawings of women in bikinis, the new bigots fried him.

Similarly, in India, our agents of intolerance maintained a stiff silence when a survey said that nine out of ten Muslim women wanted oral talaq to be banned but shouted from rooftops to permit women into Sabarimalai. Are they really interested in women empowerment or are they merely picking easy and safe targets? Without risking much, they get the soothing feeling of being virtuous. Those who have the interest and the resources will be easily able to source out more such inconsistencies in the arguments of the new bigots.

Of course, people are free to speak their mind but this step-motherly attitude is a disturbing trend for several reasons. First, the unwillingness to engage in an honest debate about Islam gives more fuel to the Donald Trumps of the world (see Joshua Yasmeh’s piece in The Daily Wire).

The Liberals Are Now The New Bigots

Second, the apologist writings of liberals and feminists only feed to the authoritarian and misogynist West Asian regimes. Third, since the liberals are even averse to an open discussion, any brown-skinned person in the US or Europe will be looked upon with suspicion, whether she is a Svetambara Jain from India, a Sunni Muslim from Iraq or an atheist from Pakistan.

Fourth, when the people in the US or in Europe see the blatant mollycoddling of Islam by liberals, they begin to develop hatred against Muslims as an entire community. (See Michael Walzer’s detailed analysis in Dissent, titled Islamism and the Left).

One can ask, is it fair to call the old liberals the new bigots? Simply put, a bigot is one who dislikes other people and ideas without having the patience to interact and learn. The old liberalism, with its years of decadence, has descended into a liberal-coated bigotry. Here’s what we observe about the new bigots:

They believe in equality and freedom but they are willing to ignore Islamic societies that have neither gender equality nor individual freedom. They believe in having open discussions about everything except Islam because that would be offensive; we should offer them ‘safe spaces’ and not abuse our ‘privilege.’ They believe in freedom of speech but it doesn’t apply to people who, according to them, have a non-liberal view.

They oppose fanaticism in all its forms but mostly when it’s perpetrated by the so-called majority. They believe that everyone should have the opportunity to follow their traditions and faiths but the so-called majority should not do anything that offends the minorities. In sum, the new bigots operate by a simple formula: Fight for the underdog, no matter where the truth lies. And who are the underdogs? The people whom they have already designated as underdogs!

The irony of it all is that many people like me, who are liberals by the text-book definition of the word, feel embarrassed to call ourselves by a name that really applies to us. To reclaim what is truly ours, we have to call the bluff of the other.

Thanks to Chandra Shekhar for sharing many ideas and resources that went into the preparation of this article.

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