From the Viewsroom

In an era of religious populism

Poornima Joshi | Updated on July 28, 2020 Published on July 28, 2020

It’s the same story, in Turkey and India

History has been a hunting ground for mass mobilisation, for those both on the Left and Right spectrum of politics. The invocation of a glorious past or the dredging up of historical hurts becomes an easy device for conjuring up grand future narratives. For the moment, clearly, the populist Right is running away with their variety of history and ideology games. The conversion last week of the great Hagia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum to a mosque perfectly captures the zeitgeist of our times. The triumphalism among Turkish Islamists spilled into the streets where the faithful, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, knelt before what was once a Byzantine cathedral and then, until last month, a museum, into saying their Friday prayers.

Perhaps the most magnificent remnant of Turkey’s unique cultural syncretism and Kemal Ataturk’s secular legacy finally fell to the majoritarian impulses fed by Turkish nationalist to glorify their Ottoman past and blot out the humiliation of foreign rule. Back home in Ayodhya, similar impulses are driving a renewed bid to symbolically stamp out the Babri mosque and Muslim religio-cultural domination. A grand temple is proposed to be built in what the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has decided is the precise birth place of Lord Rama. Astrologers have scheduled 12 noon on August 5 as the hour auspicious for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lay the foundation of a grand temple for Lord Ram on the site cleared for the purpose.

Obliteration of the past with a grand vision for the future leaves no place for the present. It would be worthwhile here to remember the epigraph philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt perfectly chose for her seminal work The Origins of Totalitarianism — “Give in neither to the past nor the future. What matters is to be entirely present”. In the time of a pandemic with the economy in doldrums and a threat at the borders, do we need any reminder of our priorities?

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 28, 2020
  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.