Noted author Salman Rushdie believes that the Bharatiya Janata Party is not as extreme as the Shiv Sena but has become less tolerant in recent years, and worries that ‘a new doctrinaire Hinduism’ is developing in India.
Perceiving the Shiv Sena as the embodiment of the new doctrinaire Hinduism, the Mumbai-born Rushdie told The Observer: “I don’t think it would be fair to say that the BJP is as extreme as that but it is becoming more strident and less tolerant in its demands.”
Rushdie made the remarks to the Sunday paper in New York on the eve of the publication of his 12th novel, ‘Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights’, this week.
He said the ‘Panchatantra’ and ‘The Arabian Nights’ were some of the sources for the book.
According to him, the issues behind extremism were wider and deeper: “It seems to me that if I don’t like your ideas, it must be OK for me to say so. If you think the world is flat, you have the right to say so and I have the right to say you’re a fool”.
“If you believe in God, and I don’t, it must be legitimate for me to say your belief is full of crap. Why do we have to put religious belief in cotton wool? The point about ideas is that they should engage with each other, not be ring-fenced”.
“It’s a quite different matter to say that there should not be racial prejudice against people. Of course there shouldn’t be. The colour of skin is a fact. Religious belief is an opinion. It seems to me quite legitimate to have counter-opinions to any opinion without being called a name.”
The Islamic revival, in his view, was “a narrative of power which can confront overweening Western power, and make otherwise very powerless individuals feel as if they’ve got some power. And then it really helps if you are a psychopath and feel like cutting people’s heads off.”