In a desire to embrace the enemy of their enemy, some Hindus have been making some very foolish alliances. Earlier this year, one of the biggest Hindu groups in Britain invited one of the most prominent white racists to speak at their annual conference. Obviously, I made a big stink about it. Why legitimise someone like that in the eyes of the community? Some British Hindus also started asking similar questions. The organisers eventually cancelled the event after the uproar. They weren’t happy with me.
The invited speaker went by the alias of “Tommy Robinson” — founder of the English Defence League (EDL). The EDL wasn’t a debating society. They organised violent rallies, harassed non-white people and got drunk. Supporters made neo-Nazi signs, posted racist messages online and didn’t hide their hatred.
The National Council of Hindu Temples UK said they invited the EDL’s founder merely for a “respectful dialogue” with him but many, including me, suspected a different motive: They wanted him to talk about why UK Hindus should be afraid of Muslims.
In politics, people have always made odd alliances on the basis of mutual interest. But even by those standards something weird is happening. As neo-Nazi nationalist groups have grown in popularity across Europe and the United States, some Hindu groups have started to see them as allies against a common enemy: Muslims. Others think the election of nationalist leaders in the West, such as Donald Trump in the US, would be good for India.
Recently, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said Indians “should feel proud” of Trump because his victory mirrored that of Modi. The Hindu Sena, an extremist group from New Delhi, celebrated when he won, saying: “India will now have the support of the US in our efforts against terrorists.”
One was Trump’s biggest backers, donating tens of lakhs of dollars. On Twitter and Facebook there have been hundreds of jubilant Indians welcoming Trump for similar reasons.
In Britain, the EDL courted Hindus and Sikhs so its leader could pretend they weren’t racist. Though they largely failed, some were willing to ignore the EDL’s racism against a common enemy.
But allow me to be a bit blunt here: These people are out of their bloody minds.
Hindus and Sikhs who think an alliance with western white-nationalist groups will help us in any way are being delusional. It isn’t just wishful thinking, it is self-sabotage.
At a glance, the white neo-Nazi groups look like nationalists who take a strong stance against Islamic terrorists and too much immigration. I can see why some Indians would regard them as harmless.
But appearances can be deceptive. Over the last decade these neo-Nazis have worked hard to look more respectable, ditching the Hitler-salutes, shaved heads, pro-Nazi chants and violent marches. Now they wear sharp suits and choose their language very carefully. They’ve realised that nationalism sounds a lot more attractive than traditional neo-Nazism.
This “cleaning-up” act coincided with a western backlash against globalisation, immigration and liberal values after the financial crash of 2008. Most of their supporters are poorly educated, poorly paid and older voters who feel their country is changing too fast and they are losing out.
So here are three big reasons why any alliance with them will hurt Indians.
First, these nationalist groups are riding a wave of populist anger not just against Muslims but against all non-whites in the West. Scratch the surface and you can see the evidence. Last week Trump supporters at a conference in Washington DC were caught on video doing Hitler-salutes, saying he would make whites powerful again. There have been similar incidents in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary and Romania too.
With every victory, from Brexit to Trump’s election, there have been big jumps in the number of racist attacks. If they become more powerful, Indians in the West will be among the first to suffer.
Second, most of these movements are against globalisation, immigration and trade. Trump blames Mexico and China for loss of jobs, but tomorrow it could be India. And if America pulls back from global trade as Trump has promised, India would also suffer from the subsequent global recession. If Britain becomes poorer after Brexit, as is predicted, Indian jobs will also be lost.
Third, the rise of white nationalist groups is a boon for extremist Muslims, not a threat. The extremists on both sides believe Muslims and non-Muslims cannot coexist , so any conflict will just reinforce their point. Trump is the best thing that happened to Islamic State and al-Qaeda recruiters in years. They too are celebrating his election.
Let me put it simply. White nationalists only care about white power. They hate what the modern world has become, and Indians are a big part of how the world has been shaped. We are their natural enemies, not their potential friends.
Sunny Hundal is a writer and lecturer on digital journalism based in London
The views expressed are personal