March 23, 2017

The American Guilt Syndrome

The subconscious mind of a victim of heinous crime often responds to the trauma by developing a Victim’s Guilt Syndrome, which is a psychological defense mechanism to stop having to deal with an external adversary. This is accomplished by internalizing the adversary within the victim’s own notion of selfhood. For instance, rape victims are often known to acquire guilt, as a rationalization that rape was their own fault and that they even deserved it. Fearful of dishonor to their families, they hide in shame over their status as rape victims. A variation of this pathology exists amongst some kidnapping victims, a prominent example being the case of Patricia Hearst. After being kidnapped by a terrorist organization, named The Symbionese Liberation Army, in the 1970s, this young woman from a billionaire family joined her captor’s ideology.

Utilizing this human tendency, colonialists engineered the minds of their subjects into an inferiority complex as part of the psychology of governance; and then ‘upgraded’ the status of a small slice of the ruled community to be the sepoys (with physical power) and the Macaulayites (with intellectual power) to help rule over the rest. This also happened to the Irish, in the form of a new category of Irish being created by British rulers, that was called the Anglo-Irish. This syndrome is the basis of ‘Hindu shame’ that is so prominent on many American campuses today, with Indian American Macaulayite faculty members becoming the role models of self-hate.

In the wake of the terrorist attack, are we as Americans being made to feel guilty of having caused the terrorism of which we are the victims? The topic, ‘Why did America cause hate against itself?’ has become a common theme for college discussions in the past three weeks. Most anti-war activism is rooted in the theory that US foreign policy and Israel’s attitude towards Palestinians caused Islam to become nasty. Hence, Americans are being asked to accept the responsibility for their own victim-hood, and to be apologetic to the Muslim world.

However, Islamic jihad predates Israel and the existence of the United States by a thousand years. For 1,300 years, a great many individuals, societies and rulers have interpreted Islamic jihad as a license to kill infidels and as a mandate for expansionism. The 7th century invasion of Sindh (India) by Arabs was explicitly celebrated as jihad, and history is filled with one wave of Islamic plunder of India after another. Modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan were largely Buddhist until these conquests. The Taliban’s atrocities look benign by comparison. These Islamic jihads, such as those by Mohammed of Ghazni, Ghauri and all the way down to Aurungzeb, were not rationalized by the conquerors based on any dispute. Rather, these were justified as wars to kills infidels and to destroy their idols. Therefore, attempts to rationalize terrorism by blaming US and Israeli policies ignore the history of jihad that precedes the existence of the United States and Israel. This guilt is part of the denial and internalization of the problem, so as to avoid dealing with the external reality that appears too ominous.

Today’s leftist anti-war ideology is based on the communist struggle against capitalism, and this is the wrong framework to analyze the problems of Islamic terrorism. The Taliban are not fighting for economic development or modernization the way communist terrorists did. Islamic fundamentalists are fighting against the forces of modernization in general, as these seem to threaten the stranglehold of fundamentalist dogma and the power of the clergy. They are equally against capitalism and communism, and against any model for secular ‘progress’. The leftists need a new ideology today, since the ‘communism versus capitalism’ dialectic is obsolete and irrelevant. Unfortunately, many leftists are left with slogans and anger but no resources to bring to the 21st century.

I am disappointed that very few leaders from the Islamic public relations machinery, which has swung into rapid deployment, call for honest introspection on the part of Islam itself, especially to re-examine its own policies towards non-Muslims. Islamic law divides the world into two categories: ‘dar-ul-Islam’ (the world of Muslims) and ‘dar-ul-harb’ (the world of non-Muslims, also called kafirs). Muslim law demands different standards and norms by which Muslims must deal with insiders and outsiders. Such built-in chauvinism towards others is dangerous and deserves public attention. Pan-Islamic organizations should focus on Muslims’ respect and responsibilities towards others, and not just push for greater rights and privileges for Islam.

In medieval Europe, Muslims tolerated Jews better than the Christians did. But in the 20th century, minority religions have been oppressed in Islamic countries. Rights of non-Muslims in Islamic countries need to be made comparable to the rights that Muslims demand for themselves in the west. Islamic leaders should create Islamic commissions and forums on pluralism, where non-Muslims could submit complaints and get a fair hearing on instances of Muslim hate speech against infidels, prejudicial laws or practices in Islamic countries towards non-Muslims, and crimes committed in the name of Islam. They should reject Islamic triumphalism, since it has led to ‘religious cleansing’ of religious minorities in virtually every Islamic state since World War II (as evidenced by a decline in the percentage of religious minorities). No religion is free from radical elements, and no religion is essentially radical. There are many moderate and liberal Islamic scholars, but they fear the clerics, and their voices are subdued.

Pan-Islamic global organizations have a westernized face of peace and tolerance, in contradistinction with a different internal face of Islam back home. The rulers of Islamic societies who deal with the west are projecting an image that is democratic and peace-loving, whereas the Muslim clergy who control the religious teachings and interpretations often tend to be radical exclusivists and expansionists. Hence there is a ‘westernized Islam’ practiced by a small elite and a different ‘native Islam’ practiced by the vast majority. This has resulted in a good guy / bad guy role-playing, in which Islamic lobbyists are the good guys claiming to save the west from some bad guys of Islam.

Unlike Christianity, Islam has resisted attempts at reformation and enlightenment, to secularize and / or pluralize it. Since the Sunni Muslim law was frozen by order of the caliph in the 10th century, the only mechanism which exists in Islam to update the law is the ‘fatwa’, which may be considered as the case law of Islamic jurisprudence. There are many ‘muftis’ who can issue fatwas, and the Holy Quran and the Hadith are often misinterpreted to promote extreme positions. The equivalent situation would be if Christian churches were criminal courts, in which preachers were judges, empowered to issue harsh verdicts for violation of Christian law.

Islamic leaders should immediately set up a panel to amend the sharia (Islamic Law), especially as it pertains to non-Muslims, so as to be compatible with democracy and pluralism. Either they should delete references to non-Muslims entirely, or else they should invite non-Muslim representatives from all religions to participate in formulating balanced, ethical, and fair norms for treating non-Muslims. They should invite and encourage critical examination of Islamic history and texts by all, without intimidation, just as is common for other world religions.

Before proclaiming any and every fight by a fellow Muslim anywhere in the world as a freedom struggle, Islamic leaders must first introspect: could a religion whose clergy subverts the freedom to disagree, the freedom to question and doubt, the freedom of other religious choices and of democracy, be capable of fighting for freedom? Freedom must begin at home.

The dialog between the west and Islam should involve such introspection by both sides. Meanwhile, Islam, Inc.’s unholy media war should voluntarily ceasefire.

 Picture Credit: YouTube


About Rajiv Malhotra 32 Articles
Author Rajiv Malhotra Born in 1950, Rajiv Malhotra is an Indian American researcher, writer, speaker and July 18, 2008 Washington 061public intellectual on current affairs as they relate to civilizations, cross-cultural encounters, religion and science. He studied physics at St. Stephens College in Delhi and went for post-graduate studies in physics and then computer science to the USA. Rajiv served in multiple careers, including: software development executive, Fortune 100 senior corporate executive, strategic consultant, and successful entrepreneur in the information technology and media industries. At the peak of his career when he owned 20 companies in several countries, he took early retirement at age 44 to pursue philanthropy, research and public service. He established Infinity Foundation for this purpose in 1994. Rajiv has conducted original research in a variety of fields and has influenced many other thinkers in India and the West. He has disrupted the mainstream thought process among academic and non-academic intellectuals alike, by providing fresh provocative positions on Dharma and on India. Some of the focal points of his work are: Interpretation of Dharma for the current times; comparative religion, globalization, and India’s contributions to the world. He has authored hundreds of articles, provided strategic guidance to numerous organizations and has over 300 video lectures available online. To best understand Rajiv’s thoughts and contributions, his books are a good resource. Besides Invading the Sacred, in which Rajiv is the main protagonist, he has authored the following game changing books: Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines; and Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive? Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Doniger’s Erotic School of Indology Currently, Rajiv Malhotra is the full-time founder-director of Infinity Foundation in Princeton, NJ. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and is adviser to various organizations. Infinity Foundation has given more than 400 grants for research, education and community work. It has provided strategic grants to major universities in support of pioneering programs including: visiting professorships in Indic studies at Harvard University, Yoga and Hindi classes at Rutgers University, research and teaching of nondualistic philosophies at University of Hawaii, Global Renaissance Institute and a Center for Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a program in religion and science at University of California, endowment for the Center for Advanced Study of India at University of Pennsylvania, lectures at the Center for Consciousness Studies at University of Arizona. Rajiv Malhotra inspired the idea of Swadeshi Indology Conference. The first ever Swadeshi Indology Conference was held at IIT, Chennai from July 6 to July 8, 2016. This conference hosted well-researched papers that highlighted the discrepancies and mistranslations in the studies of Indology done by Prof. Sheldon Pollock. This conference is the first of a series of conferences that have been planned to address multiple issues raised by Western Indologists requiring astute examination, analyses and rejoinders, culminating in a published volume with a selection of papers. Another major initiative of the Infinity Foundation is the HIST series. The HIST (History of Indian Science and Technology) series is a compilation of multi-Volume History of Indian Science and Technology based only on solid academic scholarship, and not on wild extrapolations. To accomplish this, each volume was subjected to rigorous peer reviews. The following volumes have already been published and printed as part of this IF project: Marvels of Indian Iron Through the Ages Indian Zinc Technology in Global Perspective Water Management and Hydraulic Engineering in India History of Metals in Eastern India and Bangladesh Harappan Architecture and Civil Engineering Beginning of Agriculture and Domestication in India History of Iron Technology in India Indian Beads History and Technology Himalayan Traditional Architecture Animal Husbandry and Allied Technologies in Ancient India Harappan Technology and Its Legacy Reflection on The History of Indian Science and Technology Chalcolithic South Asia: Aspects of Crafts and Technologies Traditional Water Management Rajiv Malhotra has an active Facebook following with about 8 hundred thousand followers.