Most of the time in these blogs, I give Christianity a kicking, with the occasional sideswipe at Judaism and Islam. But religious extremism is growing everywhere – even in Hinduism. Hindus do not have a violent reputation, although Partition on the sub-continent and the subsequent tensions with Pakistan should alert us to the potential. The ruling party in India right now is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which sees India as an explicitly Hindu country, and the BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a religious bigot. For example, in March last year, he appointed Yogi Adityanath to run India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Adityanath has been accused of attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. He has spent time in prison for violating public restrictions in an area at risk of erupting into Hindu-Muslim violence. Since taking office he has even helped to stir up sentiment against the Taj Mahal, which was not included in the state's latest tourism brochure because of its Muslim heritage. A recent survey ranked India as the fourth-worst country in the world for religious intolerance and like all religious extremists, they are seeking to export their violent prejudices to their co-religionists in the rest of the world. Before Christmas in the UK, a Bollywood historical epic, Padmavati, that involves a Hindu/Muslim love affair, brought Hindu extremist cries for cinemas to be burnt down. The extremists responsible said, "Our members are trained in handling a large array of weapons ranging from swords to AK-47s." In India, a senior BJP official said he would reward those who beheaded the film's star and director.
British governments of all persuasions have for years avoided dealing with this sort of thing out of ‘respect’ for other cultures and beliefs. I wrote last week about barbaric animal slaughter, allowed here on religious grounds. If that doesn’t unduly upset you, consider the miserable fate of low caste Hindus in the UK who are treated by their co-religionists as little more than animals themselves, yet the Government sits on the sidelines and does nothing about it. Nor are they likely to in the near future: the Government is actively seeking closer trade links with India post-Brexit and is unlikely to want to rock the boat. And if you think this is unlikely to matter, consider the last Mayoral campaign in London, when Zac Goldsmith tried to appeal to Hindu voters by sending them literature stressing his support for the BJP – a cynical move designed to gain votes by setting Hindu groups against Muslims – a strategy inspired by the faith of his opponent, Sadiq Khan, and many of his supporters. Meanwhile a significant chunk of polite left-leaning opinion told voters to elect Khan not on his merits, but because it would be good to have a Muslim mayor. Few people seemed to make the case that Londoners should probably pick their mayor based on who would make the tube run on time, protect them from criminals or find a credible way to build enough affordable homes. But what matters a little physical discomfort in this life when eternity beckons.