Constantine’s Sword

When Love of Religion Leads to Hatred of Others


At the heart of Oren Jacoby’s screen adaptation of James Carroll’s book “Constantine’s Sword” lies a question to which each person of faith must his find own answer. When your core beliefs conflict with church doctrine, how far should your loyalty to the church extend? The same could be asked of loyalty to a government or a political party.

Mr. Carroll, a former Roman Catholic priest and an acclaimed author whose memoir, “An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us” won a 1996 National Book Award, vehemently disagrees with the church on many issues but still embraces Catholicism. A former anti-Vietnam War activist, now in his mid-60s, he is an eloquent screen presence who conveys the same searching moral gravity that characterized other Catholic war resisters during the Vietnam era.

At once enthralling and troubling, the film, whose title has been simplified from the book’s “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History,” does about as good a job as you could hope of distilling a 750-page historical examination of religious zealotry and power into 95 swift minutes. Because the book was published several months before 9/11, the film adaptation, which was written by Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Carroll and uses the voices of Liev Schreiber, Philip Bosco, Natasha Richardson and Eli Wallach, updates the book’s pessimistic vision of how religions demonize one another to include Christian and Islamic fundamentalism as well as anti-Semitism.

What must Middle Eastern Muslims feel, Mr. Carroll wonders, when George W. Bush throws around concepts like good and evil and uses the word crusade to describe the Iraq war? Mr. Carroll worries that we may be heading toward an all-out holy war between state-supported religious extremists.

The movie begins in Colorado Springs where Mikey Weinstein, an alumnus of the United States Air Force Academy, describes the harassment of his son, Casey, a Jewish cadet, by evangelical Christians who over several days blanketed the student cafeteria with fliers promoting the Mel Gibson film “The Passion of the Christ.” There is no doubt in his mind that the film promoted an inflammatory view of Jews as Christ killers. He sued the Air Force, but the case never made it to trial.

Aggressively arguing the evangelicals’ right to proselytize is Ted Haggard, the former pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, who was filmed for this movie before his fall from grace in a scandal involving a former male prostitute. Fiery-eyed and grinning maniacally, Mr. Haggard suggests a Paul Lynde caricature of a fire-and-brimstone preacher. The evangelical fervor in Colorado Springs is the somewhat tenuous topical hook on which the movie’s exploration of religion and power is hung.

Woven into the film is Mr. Carroll’s family history. Born Irish Catholic, he is the son of a former F.B.I. agent who became a three-star general and an enthusiastic prosecutor of the Vietnam War. When Mr. Carroll was a boy, his family had a private audience with the pope, and he recalls his feelings of awe. Years later he became an ardent opponent of the Vietnam War. His estrangement from his father began when, shortly after becoming a priest, he referred to napalm in a sermon.

The movie then dives into the distant past for Mr. Carroll’s alternative, shadow history of the Catholic Church. He dates the notion of Christian militancy to the early fourth century, when the future emperor Constantine I, on the eve of a battle for control of the Roman Empire, had a vision of the cross in the sky inscribed with words promising that under its sign he would conquer. After the battle, in which he led a victorious army wielding a sword in the shape of a cross, he legalized Christianity and the cross, previously a minor symbol, became synonymous with Christian might.

He traces the origins of Christian anti-Semitism to Constantine’s birthplace in Trier, Germany, where Crusaders sailing down the Rhine systematically destroyed Jewish communities, which the pope refused to protect unless the people converted. Centuries later Trier was the site of an agreement between the Catholic Church and Hitler, negotiated with the future Pope Pius XII, whose later refusal to speak out during the Holocaust Mr. Carroll considers to be a great shame of the church.

In the most moving segment Ms. Richardson is heard reading a letter written in 1933 to Pope Pius XI by Edith Stein urging him to speak out against Nazi persecution of the Jews. A Jewish convert to Catholicism and a Carmelite nun, Stein died in Auschwitz in 1942. The letter, which went unanswered, was made public in 2003, five years after she was canonized.

Above and beyond criticizing the church’s refusal to stand up to Hitler, “Constantine’s Sword” is a cri de coeur about the abuse of religion when aligned with the state. Jesus, “the prince of peace,” Mr. Carroll insists, was not an intolerant warmonger.

“If you think of religion as a great lake,” he warns, “it’s a lake of gasoline, and all it’s going to take is someone to drop a match into it for a terrible conflagration.”  Continued @

Also Read >>:  Religious Tolerance 


Prologue: Justice Denied

The American Behind India’s 9/11—And

HOW U.S. BOTCHED Chances to Stop Him

November 22, 2011 – PROPUBLICA

– Sebatian Rotella

This story was co-published with PBS FRONTLINE

During a meeting overseas last summer, a senior U.S. official and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, discussed a threat that has strained the troubled U.S.-Pakistani relationship since the 2008 Mumbai attacks: the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group.

The senior U.S. official expressed concern that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a terrorist chief arrested for the brutal attacks in India, was still directing Lashkar operations while in custody, according to a U.S. government memo viewed by ProPublica. Gen. Kayani responded that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), had told prison authorities to better control Lakhvi’s access to the outside world, the memo says. But Kayani rejected a U.S. request that authorities take away the cell phone Lakhvi was using in jail, according to the memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the National Security Council.

The meeting was emblematic of the lack of progress three years after Lashkar and the ISI allegedly teamed up to kill 166 people in Mumbai, the most sophisticated and spectacular terror strike since the September 11 attacks. The U.S. government filed unprecedented charges against an ISI officer in the deaths of six Americans. Yet, Pakistani authorities have not arrested him or other accused masterminds. The failure to crack down on the jailed Lakhvi, whose trial has stalled, raises fears of new attacks on India and the West, counterterror officials say.

“Lakhvi is still the military chief of Lashkar,” a U.S. counterterror official said in an interview. “He is in custody but has not been replaced. And he still has access and ability to be the military chief. Don’t assume a Western view of what custody is.”

In the United States, stubborn questions persist about the case’s star witness, David Coleman Headley, a confessed Lashkar operative and ISI spy. The Pakistani-American’s testimony at a trial in Chicago this year revealed the ISI’s role in the Mumbai attacks and a plot against Denmark. It was the strongest public evidence to date of ISI complicity in terrorism.

But the trial shed little light on Headley’s past as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informant and the failure of U.S. agencies to pursue repeated warnings over seven years that could have stopped his lethal odyssey sooner — and perhaps prevented the Mumbai attack.

U.S. officials say Headley simply slipped through the cracks. If that is true, his story is a trail of bureaucratic dysfunction. But if his ties to the U.S. government were more extensive than disclosed — as widely believed in India — an operative may have gone rogue with tragic results. Both scenarios reveal the kind of breakdowns that the government has spent billions to correct since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Obama administration has not discussed results of an internal review of the case conducted last year, or disclosed whether any officials have been held accountable.

During an interview in Delhi, former Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai asserted that U.S. authorities know more about Headley than they have publicly stated. Several senior Indian security officials said they believe that U.S. warnings provided to India before the Mumbai attacks came partly from knowledge of Headley’s activities. They believe he remained a U.S. operative.

“David Coleman Headley, in my opinion, was a double agent,” said Pillai, who served in the top security post until this past summer. “He was working for both the U.S. and for Lashkar and the ISI.”

The CIA, FBI and DEA deny such allegations.

File photos of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in November 2004 (bottom) and on November 26, 2008 (top) as fire engulfs the top floor after a shootout with terrorists. (AFP PHOTO / PAL PILLAI (top) | AFP PHOTO/Getty Images/SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA (bottom))

File photos of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in November, 2004 (bottom) and on November 26, 2008 (top) as fire engulfs the top floor after a shootout with terrorists. (AFP PHOTO / PAL PILLAI (top) | AFP PHOTO/Getty Images/SEBASTIAN D’SOUZA (bottom))

An investigation by ProPublica and FRONTLINE during the past year did not find proof that Headley was working as a U.S. agent at the time of the attacks. But it did reveal new contradictions between the official version of events, Headley’s sworn testimony and detailed accounts of officials and others involved in the case. The reporting also turned up previously undisclosed opportunities for U.S. agencies to identify Headley as a terrorist threat, and new details about already-reported warnings.

U.S. and foreign officials say his role as an informant or ex-informant helped him elude detection as he was training in Pakistani terror camps and traveling back and forth to Mumbai to scout targets. And three counterterror sources say U.S. agencies learned enough about him to glean fragments of intelligence that contributed to the warnings to India about a developing plot against Mumbai.

In contrast, some U.S. officials say spotting a threat is harder than it seems. Glimmers of advance knowledge are part of the landscape of terrorism. In cases such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2004 Madrid train bombings, security forces had detected some of the suspects but not their plots.

“I just have to dispel some of these notions,” said Philip Mudd, a former top national security official at the FBI. “We look at a grain of sand and say … ‘why couldn’t you put together the whole conspiracy when you saw that grain of sand?’ Well, you got to reverse it. Every day coming into a threat brief, you’re not looking at a grain of sand and building a beach. You’re looking at a beach and trying to find a grain of sand.”

New information about the case comes partly from the DEA. After months of silence, DEA officials recently granted an interview with a ProPublica reporter and went over a timeline based on records about their former informant. The DEA officials said Headley’s relationship with the anti-drug agency was more limited than has been widely described.

The DEA officially deactivated Headley as a confidential source on March 27, 2002, according to a senior DEA official. That was weeks after he began training in Lashkar terror camps in Pakistan and six years before the Mumbai attacks. The senior official denied assertions that Headley had worked for the DEA in Pakistan while he trained with Lashkar in 2002 and beyond.

“The DEA did not send David Coleman Headley to Pakistan for the purpose of collecting post-9/11 information on terrorism or drugs,” the senior DEA official said.

The denial adds another version to a murky story. Officials at other U.S. agencies say Headley remained a DEA operative in some capacity until as late as 2005. Headley has testified that he did not stop working for the DEA until September 2002, when he had done two stints in the Lashkar camps.

Some U.S. officials and others involved say the government ended Headley’s probation for a drug conviction three years early in November 2001 to shift him from anti-drug work to gathering intelligence in Pakistan. They say the DEA discussed him with other agencies as a potential asset because of his links to Pakistan — including a supposed high-ranking relative in the ISI.

A senior European counterterror official who has investigated Headley in recent years thinks the American became an intelligence operative focused on terrorism.

“I don’t feel we got the whole story about Headley as an informant from the Americans,” the official said. “I think he was a drug informant and also some other kind of an informant.”

The transition from registered law enforcement source to secret counterterrorism operative would help explain the contradictory versions. But the duration and nature of intelligence work by Headley, if it was done, remain unknown.

Federal prosecutors and investigators declined to be interviewed on the record for this story. Pakistani officials, who also refused to be interviewed, have said they have cracked down on Lashkar and have denied that the ISI was involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Nonetheless, ProPublica and FRONTLINE talked to U.S. and foreign counterterror officials and other well-informed sources while reporting in the United States, India, Pakistan and Europe. A number of those officials and sources requested anonymity for their security or because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive case.

Headley was a wildly elusive figure who juggled allegiances with militant groups and security agencies, manipulating and betraying wives, friends and allies. He played a crucial role in an attack that had resounding international repercussions. And his unprecedented confessions opened a door into the secret world of terrorism and counterterrorism in South Asia — and closer to home.

Excerpt From Chapter 1:  [link to this chapter]

David Coleman Headley is not his original name. The 51-year-old was born Daood Gilani in Washington, D.C. His father, Syed Saleem Gilani, was a renowned Pakistani broadcaster. His mother, Serrill Headley, was a free spirit from a wealthy Philadelphia family. They moved to Pakistan when he was a baby, but the parents divorced and Serrill returned alone.

A German’s View……….

A German’s View on Islam
Emanuel Tanay, M.D.

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates.

When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.  

‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’

We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.

Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant.

It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics, who bomb, behead, murder, or honor kills. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a war mongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.

Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Emanuel Tanay, M.D.

—————- RELATED STORIES ——————–

Religious tolerance is answer

Religious tolerance, not conversion, is the answer

Jessica Montgomery,West Virginia U.

Religious tolerance is an issue that has been brought to my attention in recent weeks.

It all started a few weeks ago when I was talking to a few younger girls at the horse stables.

They couldn’t have been older than 14 years old. For one reason or another, I mentioned the fact that I am a Buddhist. Their reactions, I can honestly say, made my head spin.

One girl asked me how it was possible that I did not believe in God.

Another asked me how exactly I planned to re-route my supposed trip to Hell.

The questions went on, each being more preposterous than the next. I asked if they believed in evolution.

One of the girls remarked, “Do you honestly believe we came from monkeys? Science is just here to test our faith.” Another girl chimed in and informed me that in Bible school they learned that Charles Darwin admitted “making up” evolution on his deathbed. And right now, I really wish I were making this up.

I am all for freedom of religion. In fact, lay it on thick. Those girls could possibly be right about the whole thing, but that was not the issue.

What I find disturbing about the aforementioned situation, however, is that today’s youth should be learning how to think critically and be open-minded.

Instead, in places where we should see children learning to embrace diversity of thought, we see religious indoctrination that will undoubtedly lead to intolerance and conflict. See the Middle East for examples.

If anyone has seen the 2006 documentary, “Jesus Camp,” they should be well aware of the religious indoctrination of this country’s youth.

In this documentary, pastor Becky Fisher attempts to train children into what she calls “God’s Army.” She likens her camp to Islamic extremist camps, and expresses her wish to see children in this country radically laying down their lives for the Gospel just as children are in countries such as Pakistan and Palestine. Why? Because Pastor Fisher exclaims, “We have the truth.”

In the United States, we are assured freedom of religion. But when children are brought up in environments where they are constantly and incessantly preached to about the need to form “God’s Army,” are they really free from religion?

I find no harm in bringing up a child to hold a certain faith. However, in the interests of forming a productive and successful generation of future leaders, children should be brought up learning tolerance of other ideologies.

It is sad to see what our world has come to. If one were to examine all major world religions, one would find that although the details may differ, the message is the same – be a good person. Although many religions define “good” in different ways, it isn’t hard to find the commonalities.

For example, killing is looked down upon in most religions. If religions would just stop bickering over the details of their theology and embrace the parallels that most of them hold, everyone would be better off.

I am not insisting that any one religion is any better or worse than any other. Certainly all religions have their positive and negative points.

Furthermore, one can pick out extremists in every religion.

When children are brought up in closed-minded environments where they are taught that their set of beliefs are the only ones that can possibly be true, it is sure to cause problems in the future.

All the Islamic suicide bombers in the world wouldn’t be able to convince Christian zealots to embrace Allah. Conversely, all the Jesus Camp pastors in the world wouldn’t be able to convince Islamic radicals to convert to Christianity.

It is counterproductive for people to try and impose their own religious faiths on others. Instead, people of all religions should work together to help solve the problems that exist in the world today as opposed to creating more.

Related stories:

Dinesh D’Souza’s Christianity @

In God they trust? @

Ten Commandments @

Chimney calling Kettle black @

The British ‘caste system’

The British ‘caste system’ is more prevalent than the Indian

by Edward Hamala

In response to the letter by Roger Williams captioned “The Rig Veda does refer to caste” (07.07.23) I thought I might share a few points with your readers.

The Indian “caste system” that has so outraged Mr. Roger Williams, makes me wonder if he is equally outraged by the British “caste system” that is even more prevalent, although it is well hidden and “invisible” in the British and some European societies, where the nobility still exist, than it is in India today, where all noble titles have been abolished.

I would like to ask Mr. Williams when objecting to birthrights why has he failed to raise the same objection to the British Nobility and the Landed Gentry’s birthright, inheriting their title, social status while they are also guaranteed perpetual political power by inheriting a peer-ship and a seat in the British House of Lords, the highest legislative body of the land?

Few of us believe the existence of a truly egalitarian society in the west today or anywhere for that matter!When was the last time that Mr. Williams had a drink at the local pub with Lord Spencer? Or had tea with Prince Phillip?

Did you know that the English nobility are distinctly noticeable by their education and grooming in institutions such as Wetherby, Ludgrove, and Eton or the Royal Academy at Sandhurst? They even speak a different language, the King’s English, free from colloquialism and dialects distinctly separating them, and distinguishing them from ordinary commoners, as soon as they open their mouths. May I also remind you that the Indian Social Structure as it was depicted in the Vedas Millenniums ago, made it an edict to leave Tribals and Adivasis alone and not to impose Hindu religion, culture or values on them.The word “caste” my friend is an English word! The Sanskrit word for “caste” is “Varna” and it means vocation or occupation and does not mean “caste” as it does in the English interpretation or translation of the term!Likewise, “untouchable” meant not to go near them, don’t touch them, don’t intermarry with them and don’t corrupt their culture don’t try to conform them. Leave them alone!The unfortunate thing was that Mahatma Gandhi was also British educated, trained as a lawyer and had little or no knowledge about the ancient Vedic philosophy, history or culture. What little Gandhi knew about Vedic philosophy was mostly thought to him by Vinoba Bhave, an avid freedom fighter, a devoted supporter of the Mahatma who was a Hindu monk and a highly educated Brahman who among other things spoke 14 languages.It was Vinoba Bhave who connected Gandhi’s political views with Vedic values and philosophy that gained such a wide appeal and the support of the Indian masses. If Gandhi would have had a better grasp of Vedic Philosophy he would have been able to counter many of these British myths and instead of being an apologist he could have challenged and defeated the British, the most classist society, at their own game.Let me ask you, Mr. Williams, what modern country that you know of today still have primitive tribals living undisturbed, “uncivilized” and untouched by their society living around them? As they do in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India? Did you know that these islands are off limits to all Indian citizens, to protect these tribals?Is it done to discriminate against the tribals as “untouchables” or is it done to protect them?The State of Assam, was a similar tribal area until it got overran by zealous Christian Missionaries that have destroyed their social fibre and their culture.

Westerners can’t seem to resist the temptation of trying to impose their political and social values and religions on other cultures!
How many societies does Mr. Williams know, where a group of refugees arrived and sought refuge as the Jews did in Kerala, India in 70 AD and were given sanctuary and freedom to practice their religion. This community lived and prospered in India without anyone trying to convert them and many returned to their homeland when the State of Israel was created!
The same holds true for the Parsi refugees arriving from Persia when the forceful Muslim conversion was taking place there and they are still practicing their own ancient religion as Zoroastrians and no one tried to convert them.
Recently, a large number of Tibetians arrived in India along with the Dalai Lama and they were all received graciously and were given sanctuary.
I suggest Mr. Williams should ask the Australian aboriginals or the American Indians if they would prefer to be untouched by their foreign invaders or if they preferred to be forced to conform to an alien culture that was imposed on them, by forcefully removing their children to place them into Christian institutions where violence and sexual abuse was rampant.
It has destroyed their self esteem, traditions and culture. The Eastern Indian social structure was designed that different castes served each other, each with a distinct duty to perform for the benefit of the whole of society.
It was a farmer’s duty to teach his son to be a good farmer and the merchant’s to teach his son his craft, while the warrior was trained to be the protector and defender of all………..It is also noteworthy that governance was the duty of the Kshatryas not to rule by whims and despotism as it was the rulers privilege in the “civilized west” but to rule in accordance with the Vedic principles.
Yet the highest caste, above them all was not the Kings who were given the highest social position. It was the Brahmans who were the custodians of all the Vedic Sciences and knowledge and their duty was to teach and to preserve the knowledge of Vedas.
The teachers, the priests, the doctors, the scientists and philosophers the poets and the writers were all Brahmans whose duty also included giving moral guidance to the Kings! It is simplistic to believe that a farmer or a potter would be capable to teach their children nuclear science or medicine or the Vedas!
This educational system assured the proper training and apprenticeship of all with a life time of gainful employment for all the participants.

This, Mr. Williams, has established an interesting value system in India, alien to the west! The most valuable asset was not money or power as it is today in the western value system! It was knowledge and wisdom that took decades to learn and a life time to acquire! And it was the society’s duty to support the Brahmans to afford their study providing food, clothing and shelter to them.

I am sure Mr. Williams is familiar with the existence of the “unwashed” wretched underclass in Dickens’s Britain or Victor Hugo’s France as it did exist in most of Europe……… Well, such a thing did not exist in India and these facts are well documented by historians all the way back to Alexander the Great’s visit to India and was minutely recorded by Greek Historians such as Arrian, Diodorus, Plutarch and Strabo, accompanying Alexander. One thing these historians also commented on, was the absence of slavery that was an integral part of Hellenic culture!

Today, most Indians are alienated and mostly ignorant about their culture, the Vedas and their history, and few understand the Vedic philosophy or its teachings or the highly advanced science it encompasses. They know little else about Hinduism, besides the ritualistic traditions. This Vedic social structure was put in place at the time when in the rest of the world slavery was rampant and pivotal to every European Empire!

Don’t forget slavery was widely practiced in the United States until the Civil War to the 1860’s and desegregation only started in the 1960’s and the prejudices still exist until today.

So I think, Mr. Williams your indignation is somewhat ill placed and perhaps it would serve a better purpose if you dealt with more dire social issues that you may be more knowledgeable about, and better qualified to deal with.

1) Europe’s Civilising Mission @

Invading the SACRED @

Salute the Danish Flag

This is a cross post from and doesn’t require additional comments.

Salute the Danish Flag – it’s a Symbol of Western Freedom

By Susan MacAllen

In 1978-9 I was living and studying in Denmark. An elderly woman to whom I was close said something to me one day that puzzled me for many years after. I forget what the context of our conversation was, but she commented that I – as a young American in Denmark – should not let any Dane scold me about the way America had treated its black population, because the Danes in her view treated their immigrants at least as badly. I wasn’t sure which immigrants she meant, so I asked her. She answered that she meant those from the Middle East.
But in 1978 – even in Copenhagen, one didn’t see these Muslim immigrants.

The Danish population embraced visitors, celebrated the exotic, went out of its way to protect each of its citizens. It was proud of its new brand of socialist liberalism – one in development since the conservatives had lost power in 1929 – a system where no worker had to struggle to survive, where one ultimately could count upon the state as in, perhaps, no other western nation at the time.


The rest of Europe saw the Scandinavians as free-thinking, progressive and infinitely generous in their welfare policies. Denmark boasted low crime rates, devotion to the environment, a superior educational system and a history of humanitarianism.  

Denmark was also most generous in its immigration policies – it offered the best welcome in Europe to the new immigrant: generous welfare payments from first arrival plus additional perks in transportation, housing and education. It was determined to set a world example for inclusiveness and multiculturalism.  



How could it have predicted that one day in 2005 a series of political cartoons in a newspaper would spark violence that would leave dozens dead in the streets – all because its commitment to multiculturalism would come back to bite?

By the 1990’s the growing urban Muslim population was obvious – and its unwillingness to integrate into Danish society was obvious. Years of immigrants had settled into Muslim-exclusive enclaves.

As the Muslim leadership became more vocal about what they considered the decadence of Denmark’s liberal way of life, the Danes – once so welcoming – began to feel slighted. Many Danes had begun to see Islam as incompatible with their long-standing values: belief in personal liberty and free speech, in equality for women, in tolerance for other ethnic groups, and a deep pride in Danish heritage and history.

The New York Post in 2002 ran an article by Daniel Pipes and Lars Hedegaard, in which they forecasted accurately that the growing immigrant problem in Denmark would explode. In the article they reported:Muslim immigrants…constitute 5 percent of the population but consume upwards of 40 percent of the welfare spending.”“Muslims are only 4 percent of Denmark’s 5.4 million people but make up a majority of the country’s convicted rapists, an especially combustible issue given that practically all the female victims are non-Muslim. Similar, if lesser, disproportions are found in other crimes.”

 “Over time, as Muslim immigrants increase in numbers, they wish less to mix with the indigenous population. A recent survey finds that only 5 percent of young Muslim immigrants would readily marry a Dane.”

Forced marriages – promising a newborn daughter in Denmark to a male cousin in the home country, then compelling her to marry him, sometimes on pain of death – are one problem…

“Muslim leaders openly declare their goal of introducing Islamic law once Denmark’s Muslim population grows large enough – a not-that-remote prospect. If present trends persist, one sociologist estimates, every third inhabitant of Denmark in 40 years will be Muslim.

It is easy to understand why a growing number of Danes would feel that Muslim immigrants show little respect for Danish values and laws. An example is the phenomenon common to other European countries and the U.S.: some Muslims in Denmark who opted to leave the Muslim faith have been murdered in the name of Islam, while others hide in fear for their lives.

Jews are also threatened and harassed openly by Muslim leaders in Denmark, a country where once Christian citizens worked to smuggle out nearly all of their 7,000 Jews by night to Sweden – before the Nazis could invade. I think of my Danish friend Elsa – who as a teenager had dreaded crossing the street to the bakery every morning under the eyes of occupying Nazi soldiers – and I wonder what she would say today.In 2001,

Denmark elected the most conservative government in some 70 years – one that had some decidedly non-generous ideas about liberal unfettered immigration. Today Denmark has the strictest immigration policies in Europe. ( Its effort to protect itself has been met with accusations of “racism” by liberal media across Europe – even as other governments struggle to right the social problems wrought by years of too-lax immigration.)

 If you wish to become Danish, you must attend three years of language classes. You must pass a test on Denmark’s history, culture, and a Danish language test. You must live in Denmark for 7 years before applying for citizenship. You must demonstrate an intent to work, and have a job waiting. If you wish to bring a spouse into Denmark, you must both be over 24 years of age, and you won’t find it so easy anymore to move your friends and family to Denmark with you.

You will not be allowed to build a mosque in Copenhagen. Although your children have a choice of some 30 Arabic culture and language schools in Denmark, they will be strongly encouraged to assimilate to Danish society in ways that past immigrants weren’t.In 2006, the Danish minister for employment, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, spoke publicly of the burden of Muslim immigrants on the Danish welfare system, and it was horrifying: the government’s welfare committee had calculated that if immigration from Third World countries were blocked, 75 percent of the cuts needed to sustain the huge welfare system in coming decades would be unnecessary.

In other words, the welfare system as it existed was being exploited by immigrants to the point of eventually bankrupting the government. “We are simply forced to adopt a new policy on immigration. The calculations of the welfare committee are terrifying and show how unsuccessful the integration of immigrants has been up to now,” he said.

A large thorn in the side of Denmark’s imams is the Minister of Immigration and Integration, Rikke Hvilshoj. She makes no bones about the new policy toward immigration, “The number of foreigners coming to the country makes a difference,” Hvilshøj says, “There is an inverse correlation between how many come here and how well we can receive the foreigners that come.”

And on Muslim immigrants needing to demonstrate a willingness to blend in, “In my view, Denmark should be a country with room for different cultures and religions. Some values, however, are more important than others. We refuse to question democracy, equal rights, and freedom of speech.” Hvilshoj has paid a price for her show of backbone.

 Perhaps to test her resolve, the leading radical imam in Denmark, Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, demanded that the government pay blood money to the family of a Muslim who was murdered in a suburb of Copenhagen, stating that the family’s thirst for revenge could be thwarted for money.

When Hvilshoj dismissed his demand, he argued that in Muslim culture the payment of retribution money was common, to which Hvilshoj replied that what is done in a Muslim country is not necessarily what is done in Denmark.

The Muslim reply came soon after: her house was torched while she, her husband and children slept. All managed to escape unharmed, but she and her family were moved to a secret location and she and other ministers were assigned bodyguards for the first time – in a country where such murderous violence was once so scarce.

Her government has slid to the right, and her borders have tightened. Many believe that what happens in the next decade will determine whether Denmark survives as a bastion of good living, humane thinking and social responsibility, or whether it becomes a nation at civil war with supporters of Sharia law.

And meanwhile, Americans clamor for stricter immigration policies, and demand an end to state welfare programs that allow many immigrants to live on the public dole.

As we in America look at the enclaves of Muslims amongst us, and see those who enter our shores too easily, dare live on our taxes, yet refuse to embrace our culture, respect our traditions, participate in our legal system, obey our laws, speak our language, appreciate our history . . . we would do well to look to Denmark, and say a prayer for her future and for our own. contributing editor Susan MacAllen writes a political blog,, and has written on an extensive array of subjects for over 20 years. She has lived overseas and been intimately involved in the French culture since the Muslim immigrant population emerged in the south of France.

Muslims Will  Be Majority in  Europe @

Invading the SACRED

Invading The Sacred

Aditi Banerjee

The story of why I became involved with co-editing a book that analyzes the representation of Hinduism in American academia and the ensuing and ongoing politics when such representations are challenged both by the Indian diaspora as well as by academicians .

Aditi Banerjee received a B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. She is a practicing attorney in New York.

As I write this, I am surrounded by bookshelves full of English translations of the Puranas and the Dharma Shastras. In my puja room are texts of stotras and pujas that I am eager to learn but have not yet touched. A few blocks away, at the local Hindu Center, a Bhagavat Katha is taking place. Similarly, for the past several months, as I became involved in co-editing the book, Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America, papers I had planned to write–on Hindu models of feminism and narratives of my recent pilgrimages in India–went unwritten.

In an ideal world, I would have preferred any of those activities to this type of writing; but if I had to do it all over again, I would still have chosen to work on Invading the Sacred. The simple reason is that I believe now, as I did then, that not just as a Hindu, but as one who is committed to the objectives of true pluralism and multiculturalism, a deeper understanding of the issues raised by this book is critical to achieving those goals.

This essay is the story of why I became involved with co-editing Invading the Sacred, a book that analyzes the representation of Hinduism in American academia and the ensuing and ongoing politics when such representations are challenged both by the Indian diaspora as well as by academicians, and what this book means to me.

Three Vignettes–Personal Experiences of Hinduphobia

When I was in high school, my American History teacher, for no discernible reason, read to the class a newspaper clipping about an airplane that had accidentally landed in a remote Indian coastal village. The article described how the villagers rushed to garland the plane and pilot. The students (and my teacher) uproariously laughed at the apparent ignorance of these villagers who mistook an ordinary airplane and pilot for gods. At that age, I did not have the words or the wherewithal to explain to them that Hindus honor anything and anyone that enters their home for the first time.

It is customary for Hindus to garland honoured guests, for example, or to place a dot of vermilion powder on new purchases. This does not mean we regard these objects or persons necessarily as God; rather, such gestures express our gratitude and respect for them as well as for the Divine who has brought them to us.

In college, I was exposed to Jeffrey Kripal’s “theory” of Sri Ramakrishna as a homosexual who had homoerotic feelings about (and possibly abused) Swami Vivekananda. It was presented to me not as speculation but as an academically established and authoritative truth.

All my life, I had looked upon Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda as holy saints who had revived Hinduism during colonial rule in India. I had a picture of Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi to which I daily offered aarti, and I eagerly read Swami Vivekananda’s complete works–one of the few compilations on Hinduism widely available in English that is written from a Hindu perspective. They had been my portal to Hinduism, but I felt shaken by these academic allegations.

Instinctively, I knew such claims were baseless, and yet, these claims were made and vouched for by bona fide professors with Ivy League credentials, so they could not be completely wrong. Could they?

Shortly before I began practicing law, my guru advised me to begin wearing a bindi every day–not the stick-on kind but actual kumkum mixed with water. I was pleased to adopt this practice, as the bindi is a mark of auspiciousness and acts as a protective shield for the spiritual center of the body, the third eye (ajna chakra).

While some family members and friends warned me that others, especially my colleagues, may frown upon wearing such a mark, I had experienced and believed in the open-minded acceptance of my American peers.

However, I then came across Prof. David Gordon White’s book, Kiss of the Yogini: Tantric Sex in its South Asian Context, in which he remarks that the bindi a Hindu woman wears represents a drop of menstrual blood.

I grew apprehensive about wearing the bindi to work–would others mistakenly see it as some primitive, (literally) bloodthirsty rite? Still, I have followed my guru’s instruction and wear the bindi every day, and I have never regretted it. I do wonder sometimes, though, when catching the surreptitious curious stares of others, what exactly they think when they see the red oval between my eyebrows, and whether that perception has been shaped by the speculation of ‘renowned’ scholars such as White.

Because I have faced this Hinduphobia, which often shows itself in the subtlest of ways, because I have seen my friends and peers suffer from similar experiences, and because we have never had the voice or the ammunition with which to fire back–with which to say that this is wrong, not because it is offensive or politically incorrect, but because it is baseless and untruthful–because of all this, I could not say ‘no’ when the opportunity arose to become involved with this book.

For, what starts in American universities does not remain there–it spreads globally, percolates through to mainstream culture, to primary and secondary schools, and to the way ordinary citizens interact with and react to each other.

This Hinduphobia acts as a poison; with its spread, it is no longer possible to undertake the projects I really wanted to pursue, those listed at the beginning of this essay. When Hinduism has been projected to represent only the grotesque and sexualised in academia, no serious study of our Dharma Shastras within the academic system is easy; when our modern acharyas and gurus are demonised, an entire generation of budding scholars is too embarrassed to independently engage with their works; and when our most cherished deities and practices are exoticised or sensationalised, we are tempted to abandon those traditions and forms of worship that make us Hindu.

‘Sham’ Scholarship

The scholarship at issue here is a pattern of Freudian psychoanalyses that sensationalise, eroticise, exoticise and distort the meanings of sacred Hindu figures, deities, and traditions. Invading the Sacred analyses several case studies of such Freudian interpretations.

Here are some illustrative examples: Prof. Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Professor of History and Religion, University of Chicago; Past President of American Academy of Religion and Association for Asian Studies; award-winning author of numerous books on Hinduism:

  • “Holi, the spring carnival, when members of all castes mingle and let down their hair, sprinkling one another with cascades of red powder and liquid, symbolic of the blood that was probably used in past centuries.” [1]
  • “The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think … Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war … The Gita is a dishonest book; it justifies war.” [2]
  • Jeffrey Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. [From Kali’s Child, which won the Best Book Award from the American Academy of Religion and was listed by Encyclopedia Britannica as its top choice for learning about Sri Ramakrishna:]
    • Claims that the mystical experiences of saints like Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda were the result of sexual abuse and sexual confusion;
    • “These homoerotic energies, in other words, not only shaped the symbolism of Ramakrishna’s mysticism; they were his mysticism. Let me be very clear: without the conflicted energies of the saint’s homosexual desires, there would have been no Kali’s sword, no unconscious Handmaid, no conflict between the Mother and the Lover, no Child, no Radha, no living lingam, no naked Paramahamsa boys, no Jesus state, no lovebody, no ecstatically extended feet, no closing and opening doors, no symbolic visions, no bhava, and no samadhi. In effect there would have been no ‘Ramakrishna.'”

    Prof. Paul Courtright, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies and Former Chair of the Department of Religion and of Asian Studies at Emory University. [From Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings, which won the History of Religions award from the American Academy of Religion:]

    • “Its (Ganesa’s) trunk is the displaced phallus, a caricature of Siva’s linga. It poses no threat because it is too large, flaccid, and in the wrong place to be useful for sexual purposes.” [3]
    • “He [Ganesa] remains celibate so as not to compete erotically with his father, a notorious womaniser, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter.” [4]
    • “Both in his behavior and iconographic form Ganesa resembles in some aspects, the figure of the eunuch… Ganesha is like a eunuch guarding the women of the harem.” [5]
    • Courtright’s work was the source for an official museum write-up about a large 11th century Ganesha carving in the Walters Art Gallery, a Baltimore museum visited by many schoolchildren: “Ganesa, is a son of the great god Siva, and many of his abilities are comic or absurd extensions of the lofty dichotomies of his father … Ganesa’s potbelly and his childlike love for sweets mock Siva’s practice of austerities, and his limp trunk will forever be a poor match for Siva’s erect phallus.”

    These works are objectionable not because they are offensive per se, but because they are based on flimsy, unsubstantiated, and often non-existent evidence. Such failings have been pointed out by fellow academics (many of whom have no association with Hinduism or India), but their challenges have gone unanswered.

  • Doniger never responded to Michael Witzel’s critique of her Sanskrit translations that are described in the book. (Witzel, one of the leading Sanskrit scholars in the U.S., has stated that Doniger’s translations are so riddled with mistakes that they are unreliable and that she would have been better off adding her Freudian gloss to older translations.) Courtright has refused to debate with or even address those who have compiled overwhelming textual evidence to rebut his claims. Neither they nor Prof. Kripal have addressed critiques by several prominent professors from the field of psychology and psychoanalysis that their works are based on discredited methodologies. These detailed scholarly critiques, among others, have been reprinted and/or summarised in our book.Doniger et al. do not defend themselves by defending their theses–that would be too embarrassing. Instead, as we also show in our book, they simply decry their critics as being fundamentalist or childishly emotional, and they hide behind the fig leaf of ‘academic freedom.’Competing Narratives
  • The first question that most people ask after reading substantive critiques of such ‘scholarship’ presented in our book is, “Why?” Why does this coterie of scholars produce work that is academically suspect by their own standards, that insists on sexualising and sensationalising the sacred, and that is so at odds with what Hindus know to be true about their own traditions?
  • The second question usually is, “Why is there such a discrepancy between the American academic treatment of Hinduism and that of other religions?” (A more detailed study of this issue can be found in the book, where we reprint an article by Sankrant Sanu on the discriminatory treatment doled out to Hinduism vis-à-vis other religions in the previous edition of the Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia.). We note that even when criticisms are leveled at other religions, they are overwhelmingly balanced out by more positive depictions by emic (internal to the tradition) practitioners of those faiths.
  • The ratio of emic (insider) to etic (outsider) scholars in the academic study of religions in American universities today is much higher in virtually all other religions than in Hinduism.More importantly, some scholars appear to feel entitled to take a certain political and intellectual license with respect to Hinduism that they would not take with respect to other religions. For example, White’s book on Tantra, Kiss of the Yogini: Tantric Sex in its South Asian Context, only deconstructs Hindu Tantra but does not address the Vamachara Tantra of Buddhism, which is arguably more prominent today than Hindu Tantra. Proving the politicisation of such scholarship, our book notes that in her review of White’s book, Doniger raises serious criticisms of the lack of evidence behind White’s thesis but then goes on to say that Kiss of the Yogini “has a political importance that eclipses reservations of this kind … In arguing for the sexual meaning of the texts, White is flying in the face of the revisionist Hindu hermeneutic tradition that began in the eleventh century, was favored by Hindus educated in the British tradition from the nineteenth century onwards, and prevails in India today.” [7].
  • In other words, according to Doniger, whether or not White’s claims are accurate, his political ends justify his questionable academic means. In order to understand what drives such scholarship, we need to view this phenomenon, which we call academic Hinduphobia, not as isolated incidents of excess and error but as part of a larger trend that has spanned many decades and many disciplines. As we show in our book, not much has changed in this field of scholarship from Berkeley-Hill’s 1921 essay, The Anal-Erotic Factor in the Religion, Philosophy and Character of the Hindus, positing that Hindu reverence for Agni, Indra and Surya evidenced a fascination for passing gas, as these deities are associated with passing enormous amounts of wind, that Vedic chants emulated the act of passing gas, and that ‘Atman’ was really a pseudo-metaphysical façade for the Hindu “flatus complex.” Today, such a reading is echoed by David Gordon White’s reduction of Tantra to an upper-caste “intellectual whitewash” of lower-caste sexual practices wherein sacred Hindu mantras are nothing more than “nonsense syllables” from the “inarticulate moans” made during sexual intercourse. This scholarship is not the product of a few idle (and perhaps disturbed) minds but rather a narrative driven by deeply embedded historical and institutional paradigms.
    An analogy can be drawn to what in American tax law is called a ‘sham’ transaction. This refers to transactions by businesses that may technically meet all of the provisions of the tax law–e.g., if a corporation is required to be a resident of a particular country, the corporation will set up a proper mailbox there–but that have no substantive ‘business purpose.’ In other words, such a transaction is a fraudulent scheme, driven by tax avoidance rather than economic substance, dressed up to look like a legitimate business transaction. Such ‘sham’ transactions are outlawed as being fraudulent.
    Similarly, we see in the scholarly works investigated in this book a pattern of speculative claims that are dressed up to look like bona fide scholarship but that have no academic substance. As ‘sham’ transactions are driven forth by fraudulent motives of tax avoidance, we query whether this ‘sham’ scholarship is driven forth by ulterior political motivations.
    Scholarship should be driven by genuine truth-seeking and not by politically-motivated speculation. The standards of objectivity and professional “best practices” of research guidelines, procedures and methodologies should be implemented, independently monitored, and be inclusive of all parties with a stake in the intellectual, philosophical, and cultural capital of their traditions.
    Just as we have external watchdogs for the medical profession, for the media, and for the government, surely, it is not unprecedented for independent observers to act as watchdogs for the academic humanities profession. It has become obvious that peer-review is inadequate in certain circumstances, just as the self-policing of the legal, medical, and business professions has been found lacking in areas and has been supplemented by external monitoring.
    In order to understand the agendas driving forth this ‘sham’ scholarship, we have to understand how such scholarship is deployed. It is being used not to criticise some fringe elements of Hindu thought or practice but rather to undermine Hinduism itself.
    For example, Vijay Prashad, Professor and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, in “Letter to a Young American Hindu,” seeks to convince young American Hindus that the Bhagavad Gita was inspired by Buddhism and the Buddhist (i.e, non- Hindu) concept of karma, that bhakti is little more than a rebellious movement against oppressive Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, and that the Bhagavad Gita should be read not as an exposition of timeless principles and values but rather as an “experiment in truth”.[8]
    Prashad essentially makes the following claims: (1) Karma is not a Hindu concept but one imported from Buddhism; (2) the Bhagavad Gita, arguably the most famous, widely-read and beloved scripture of the Hindus, was essentially Buddhist and not Hindu; (3) the Bhagavad Gita is not a religious scripture but an “exploration” of truth that is thus non-divine in origin; and (4) bhakti, one of the most popular margas of Hinduism, should be interpreted as a political rather than a spiritual movement.
  • One wonders whether Prashad would dare to call the Koran or the Bible “experiments in truth” that were inspired by other religions, particularly in “letters” personally addressed to their “young” adherents.
  • This assault upon the very foundations of Hinduism is also reflected in Doniger’s insinuation (in her now rejected Microsoft Encarta entry on Hinduism) that the system of yoga was appropriated by Vedic society from the indigenous (read, non-Hindu) inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent.
    This claim is echoed by the American Yoga Association: “There is a common misconception that Yoga is rooted in Hinduism; on the contrary, Hinduism’s religious structures evolved much later and incorporated some of the practices of Yoga. (Other religions throughout the world have also incorporated practices and ideas related to Yoga.)” [9]

    Essentially, a coterie of scholars is targeting that which is most sacred and renowned in Hinduism–the Bhagavad Gita, bhakti, yoga, deities such as Sri Ganesha, Shiva, and Devi, spiritual leaders like Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda–and deconstructing them either as being pathological or as not really being Hindu at all.

  • THIS is the invasion of the sacred–the looting of a living religion, an entire spiritual and cultural tradition, by denigration and appropriation.

  • As we explain in our book, this invasion of the Hindu sacred is driven by a complex set of factors, one of which is the playing out of the Frontier Myth, a doctrine deeply rooted in American mythology and history that drives how the American academic establishment and mainstream media interact with and react to minority cultures.
  • The Myth holds that America’s mission, entrusted by Providence, is to constantly expand Eden or Civilization (the secular equivalent of Eden) by conquering and colonising the wild Frontier, which has been inhabited at different times by various minority cultures, such as Native Americans, blacks, Mexicans, and now Asian Indians.
    In the intellectual space, the Hindu frontier is one of the last frontiers that the Western mind is keen to penetrate in its cultural and intellectual imperialist quest.
    Hinduism has become a targeted frontier because of its unique status. It is the last of the truly indigenous religions, one that has sprung forth from the land and not been supplanted by alien faiths
    (Most of the other indigenous religions of the world have either been decimated or driven to the brink of extinction by colonising forces.)
    Among the major world religions, Hinduism is perhaps the most incompatible with Western religious frameworks.
    By far the oldest living religion in the world, Hinduism has been the source of the Dharmic traditions, as Judaism has been the source of the Abrahamic religions; however, it has developed along a tract distinct from that of the Semitic faiths. The core concepts of Sanatana Dharma do not translate into Abrahamic terms–dharma, karma, moksha, and yoga have no English equivalents.
    Yet, it continues to flourish with almost a billion adherents; it has not abandoned its rich pantheon of an infinite variety of forms and manifestations of Ishwara; from time immemorial, it has worshipped and revered Shakti, the female divine; it has not yielded to Islamic conquest or Christian conversion; and it has not obligingly morphed itself to adapt to Western paradigms.
    Thus, Hinduism stands apart, and in this light, may pose the most serious challenge to Western intellectual and philosophical hegemony today.
    It is in the face of such a threat that this brand of scholarship seeks to either denigrate or appropriate from Hinduism its crown jewels of sacred philosophy, icons and practices. This school of academicians has constructed a narrative–one, as documented in this book, deployed to affect government policy and mainstream media representations of Hinduism–that tells a compelling story to the public and to those in power.
    This tactic has been used many times over in American, and more generally Western, history to demonise minority cultures in order to justify their destruction.
    The story they have cleverly created about Hinduism goes something like this: Hindus were too occupied with earthy pleasures and pursuits to develop an authentic spiritual and philosophical tradition of their own; therefore, whatever Hindus find valuable in modern day Hinduism has either been imported from elsewhere or conceals something pathological that can only be exposed through Freudian psychoanalysis.
    Thus, for example, it was the obsession with lower-caste sexual rites that led to the development of Tantra; it was the castration anxiety of men that evolved into worship of Devi, ‘the mother with a penis;’ [10] it was homoerotic fantasies that led to the mystical experiences of Sri Ramakrishna; it was the emasculation complex, again, of Hindu men that led to Hindu renaissance movements led by, for example, Swami Vivekananda, and so forth.
    Thus, the story goes, it is quite unsurprising that Hindus were never able to formulate high philosophy or a consistent framework of values–such religious and cultural necessities had to be borrowed from other religions (i.e., karma and the values of the Bhagavad Gita from Buddhism) or from those whom the Hindus marginalised (i.e., yoga from the ‘indigenous’ Indus civilization; Tantra from oppressed lower castes).
    The unsaid but underlying premise is that Hindus never had the wherewithal or interest to develop a metaphysics or philosophy of their own. But, of course; they were too busy passing gas and chanting about it to do anything else.
    That is the story this cartel of scholars persists in telling, and it is a clever one, one that conveniently reduces Hinduism to an elitist doctrine interested only in the exploitation of others and various anal-penile-erotic fetishes.
    Here is our own story: We, too, believe that Sanatana Dharma is unique. It is the source from which arose the great traditions of Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism.
    It is the “oldest major world religion” based on realisation, not revelation. Hinduism evolved from the collective experiences of its mystics, its yogis, its lovers of God. Originating from experience, from realisation, and not revealed dogma, Hinduism developed as a grassroots movement that swelled upwards and was never externally organised, because it never required an institutional framework to give it shape or consistent meaning.
    It is the only major extant religious tradition in which the feminine divine, Shakti, is revered and worshipped; in which the sublimation of the physical through the practices of Tantra holds equal footing as a mode of sadhana (spiritual practice) with the ascetism of yoga; in which the sweet outpouring of passionate love in bhakti is tempered by the most clinical, subtle and intricate of monistic philosophies (Advaita Vedanta).
    As such, Hinduism is a unique religion and, given the history of similar native religious traditions, one that is under severe attack. Through the invasions of its sacred, both in the physical realm through the historical colonisation of India and in the intellectual and cultural realms through ongoing Eurocentric scholarship, its philosophical, cultural and spiritual capital has been and continues to be plundered and appropriated.
    Therefore, we believe that scholarship regarding Hinduism deserves special scrutiny and sensitivity.

    Our critics falsely claim that we are engaged in academic censorship. In fact, we do not seek to silence the voices of those we critique–we only ask that other voices be added to their ongoing discourse about Hinduism. We believe that outsider perspectives do offer value in understanding any religion, including Hinduism, but that emic or insider perspectives are just as vital and valuable.

    With respect to, for example, Sri Ganesha, it is only logical to conclude that the insights of one who has lived with and loved Sri Ganesha, one who has worshipped Him, who through invocations of and meditation upon Him, has experienced Him as only a devotee can, would contribute to genuine understanding and knowledge of Him. If such voices are not respected by the academy, then the American academic establishment is adopting the elitist Brahmanism it claims to despise. It is silencing the underrepresented voices of those whom the academic establishment has consistently denigrated and misrepresented.

    We are often told to relinquish this battle, told that the academy is of little significance, that this is a battle that is not worth fighting. Yet, if we take a moment to see the history of how we ended up here, we see that the British destroyed our traditional educational systems like the gurukula system, the traditional way in which knowledge about Hinduism has been transmitted for thousands of years.

  • Because the infrastructure for producing our own home team of Hindu scholars has been destroyed, we are at a serious disadvantage in producing indigenous Hindu scholarship independent of the Western academic system. Any current initiatives to promote traditional Hindu forms of education are immediately derailed as being fundamentalist Hindutva. And when budding Hindu scholars do try to enter academia, the process is so politicised, that they either have to buy into existing academic dogma or else face a doomed academic career. In the process, entire generations of potential scholars of Hinduism have been lost, and the subsequent loss of a true diversity of perspectives is a loss we all suffer.
    In such a climate, the onus is therefore on the academic establishment to promote emic Hindu perspectives and scholarship to balance out the one-dimensional representations dominating Hinduism Studies today.
    It is not that we eschew honest critiques and evaluations of Hinduism. We just believe that our tradition is rich enough to be engaged on its own terms. We believe that we would have richer scholarship if academics engaged with the actual words and experiences of Sri Ramakrishna, or the actual texts and philosophies of Tantra, or the actual Puranic accounts of Sri Ganesha, Devi and Shiva, rather than subjecting them to psychoanalysis by so-called scholars of Hinduism who have neither a sound knowledge of Sanskrit nor qualifications in (Freudian or other) psychology accepted by its respected authorities. This is true of psychoanalyst scholars, such as Doniger, Kripal and Courtright, who have no training or background in psychoanalysis.
    We promote debate and dissension but ask that it be an honest and fair debate. In our purva-paksha system, the leaders of different religious traditions study each other’s traditions in depth and then debate each other–they would speak, in the terminology of Prof. Arvind Sharma in his Preface to Invading the Sacred, as insider to insider and not as outsider to outsider. That is, they do not keep out the ‘other’ and study and debate him amongst themselves, but instead engage with the ‘other’ in debate. This leads to more authentic and constructive scholarship.
    We also happen to believe that the study of Hinduism deserves to be more than just titillating fodder for psychoanalysis. Enlightenment thought did not begin a few hundred years ago in the narrow Western sliver of the world. Instead, the advent of rationality and scientific thought can be traced back several thousands of years ago to the very dawn of Hindu civilization, which gifted the world with the concept of ‘zero,’ the ‘Arabic’ numeral system, the decimal system, algebra and trigonometry, and astonishingly advanced knowledge of astronomy, etc. Hinduism never faced the schism between science and faith that has plagued the Western world, because new knowledge was always welcomed with an open mind. New knowledge was never perceived as a threat, because in the Hindu framework, wisdom was never limited to the revelations of one prophet or one canon but rather was always solidly based on insights of all who had reached certain stages of enlightenment. Hindu thought would thus be of immeasurable value as an approach to the reconciliation of science and faith, one of the most important challenges facing the modern world.
    Our critics often accuse us of being chauvinistic, of being apologists seeking to glorify some long lost Vedic age that either never existed or can never again be revived. To the contrary, we believe that the genuine study of Hinduism is exceptionally relevant to the modern world, and that traditional Hindu approaches must be included in any toolbox of cultural solutions addressing the human rights, environmental, conflict resolution and gender discrimination challenges faced by global society today. The concept of ahimsa central to Hinduism encompasses nonviolence towards all living beings. The realisation that human beings must live in harmony with the natural environment in order to foster a sustainable and healthy society helped formulate a Hindu model of environmentalism, in tune with modern scientific concepts, thousands of years ago.

Vandana Shiva and others transmitted this model to the West, and it has mushroomed into the global environmental movement.We live in a world where a woman’s self-esteem too often depends on how she is perceived by others, either at home or in the workplace.

The understanding that every female is inherently a form of Devi and that it is only ignorance of her own true power and nature holding her back can thus be tremendously emancipating and uplifting. With mental health problems on the rise worldwide, Hindu psychology based on concepts such as the gunas, chakras and koshas, and practices of pranayama and yoga have much to offer to the treatment of psychological disorders. The list goes on.These solutions are not perfect and deserve scrutiny and challenge.

However, if we are serious about promoting multiculturalism and pluralism, if we are sincere about tackling the serious challenges we face as a society by using the most effective solutions, then such approaches deserve a fair hearing and must at least be investigated and explored.
This is not a radical idea: scholars have been studying positive Islamic and Christian approaches to feminism and human rights. In order for such scholarship to be initiated with respect to Hindu approaches, the road ahead must be cleared of the discredited Freudian blockages.
This will lead to serious scholarship on Hinduism and its vast potential as a storehouse of wisdom, insight and methods of physical, psychological and spiritual growth of value both to individuals and to society at large.It is my hope that a few years from now, a young woman will sit at her desk, surrounded by shelves full of the Dharma Shastras, of classical Hindu texts on yoga and the various darshanas of Hindu philosophy, and of Puranas describing our deities and ancient lore in their full glory, and that she will engage with, question, and interpret these texts with fresh eyes.
It is my hope that her voice will resound within the walls of the Ivory Tower alongside other voices; that her perspective will help shape how others view one of the world’s greatest religions; that her insights will contribute to the fount of creativity and compassion from which we leave behind a world more peaceful, prosperous and healthy than the one into which we were born.
It is my hope that this book, Invading the SACRED, will help open up the space and resources for that young woman to explore how the oldest forms of Hindu philosophy can pave new ways of thinking; to enable her to engage with other traditions and cultures not through intellectual ‘invasions’ but through constructive purva-paksha. That is the underlying mission of this book, and that is my personal hope, both for that young woman and for us all.
Aditi Banerjee received a B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. She is a practicing attorney in New York.

1)  The British ‘caste system’

2)  MOTIVATION of Indologists