By Pankaj Mishra
Cultural revolutions are underway in two nation-states — India and Israel — founded by secular nationalists in the late 1940s. Right-wing demagogues, emerging in both countries from among previously unrepresented masses, seek to forge a new national identity by stigmatizing particular religious and secular groups.
There are eerie similarities between the Hindu thugs who assault Muslim males marrying Hindu women and followers of the far-right Israeli group Lehava (Flame), who try to break up weddings between Muslims and Jews.
More importantly, religious-political chauvinism is now amplified by figures in power as well. Last week, Israel’s minister of religious services claimed that Reform Jews were not Jews. A minister in Narendra Modi’s government has described Indian Muslims and Christians in India as “bastards.”
The new ruling classes seem obsessed with moral and patriotic education, reverence for national symbols and icons (mostly right-wing), and the uniqueness of national culture and history.
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