Negationism in Europe usually means the denial of the Nazi genocide on the Jews and Gypsies in World war 2. Less Well-known is that India has its own brand of negationism. A section of the Indian intelligentsia is trying to erase from the Hindus' memory the history of their persecution by the swords-men of Islam. The number of Victims of this persecution matches that of the Nazi crimes. The Islamic campaign for centuries, without any moral doubts arising in the minds of the persecutors and their chroniclers. The Islamic reports on the massacres of Hindus, the abduction of Hindu women and children to slave-market, the destruction of temples and the forced conversions, invariably express great glee and pride. They leave no doubt that the destruction of Paganism by every means was considered the God-ordained duty of the Muslim community. Yet, today many Indian historians, Journalists and politicians deny that there ever was a Hindu-Muslim conflict. They shamelessly rewrite history and conjure up "centuries of Hindu-Muslim amity", and a growing section of the public in India and in the West only knows their negationist version of history. It is not a pleasant task rudely shake people out of their delusions. Especially if these have been wilfully created, but this essay does just that.
This essay was started as an expanded translation of a Dutch-language book review of Sitaram Goel's Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, written for the KUL periodical Inforient.
Koenraad Elst (°Leuven 1959) distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to issent. After a few hippie years he studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. During and following for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned both laurels and ostracism with his findings on items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, he roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi's legacy. He also published on the interface of religion and politics, correlative cosmologies, the dark side Buddhism, the reinvention of Hinduism, technical points of Indian and Chinese philosophies various language policy issues, Maoism, the renewed relevance of Confucius in conservatism, the increasing Asian stamp on integrating world civilization, direct democracy, the defence of threatened freedoms, and the Belgian question. Regarding religion, he combines human sympathy with substantive scepticism.
This is a reprint of the book Negationism in Indian. Concealing the Record of Islam. Nothing has changed, the text remains as it was twenty years ago, including my mistake that the Kalmuks are Muslims; in fact they are Tibetan Buddhists. I have only added two articles on this same subject that I wrote very recently, which can be found at the end; and the present foreword.
This book, though treating of an old problem, was also way ahead of its time. It announced a wave of books and websites critical of Islam, which was to materialize in the West only after the Islamic attacks of 11 September 2001. Many intellectuals, both on the Right and on the Left, realized the intentions of Islam and wrote critical studies of its ideology and history. In India, by contrast, the early 1990s proved to be the golden age of publications critical of Islam. After that, the historians doing this thankless job died and were that, the historians with new forces. Here my book came on top a wave rather than ten to fifteen years before it.
Originally, it was nothing book Hindu temples, What Happened to Them, written for the (now defunct) Orientalist KUL periodical In orient. That is why it has no footnotes, a fact remarked upon by many sophomores who confuse scholarship with footnotes. I have written enough books richly endowed with footnotes to prove my scholarship, but the allegation of poor scholarship nonetheless is and remains popular with those who cannot pick holes into my case against the enemies of Hindu civilization.
My Leftist critics vary displeased at my bracketing them with neo-Nazi history rewriters through my choice of the word "negationism". (They are right, there is a difference: their case is worse than that of the Holocaust deniers, as we shall see.) To this criticism let me make the following points.
The habit of likening everyone that one disagrees with to the Nazis, was started precisely by these Leftists. They should be used to it even when it is they themselves who get likened to the Nazis, as by their own standard, the world is full of Nazis. In Holland, the likening of Islam to Nazism and of the Quran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (eventhough this comparison was originally made by none other than Winston Churchill) became a hot item when Liberal politician Geert Wilders repeated it. It earned him a trial for "hate". Which he won. Other European politicians critical of Islam were not so lucky.
Secondly. It is a fact that the Indian secularists and their dupes deny history out of political motives just as those nostalgic for the Nazi system deny its crimes. In particular, they deny or minimize or justify the crimes of all the enemies of Hiduism, particularly those of Islam.
I have to admit, though, that as voluminous as my knowledge of Indian negationism was becoming, so small was my knowledge of Holocaust negationism. In those days there was no internet yet, and you had to go looking for their publications in circles I didn't frequent. So I relied mostly on anti-negationist sources to get to know about negationism.
I have made up for this lapse by reading some negationismt literature around the year 2000, and interviewing a few negationists in person. I had sought out Siegfried Verveke, who had a peinting business in Antwerp, and who headed the website Vrij Historisch Onderzoek ("Free Historical Research"). He gave me an appointment after his lecture in a farmhouse turned pub in the village of Waasmunster. This turned out to be real neo-Nazi meaning their lives by waging the battles of the past. The organizer, who turned out to be a young lad I had seen several times in my own street, spoke contemptuously of the state of "Pissrael". The nextspeaker was Bert Erikson, a real old Nazi, and he spoke about Rudolf Hoss, the commander of Auschwitz, and the diary of his American interrogator, who testified unselfconsciously that the confessions Hoss made were extracted under torture, hence valueless under international law. Then it was Siegfried Verbeke's turn to speak. He had also brought the fugitive French negationist Vincent Reynouard. I spoke with them afterwards and published a long article and interview about this meeting (Nucleus, April 2002).
It became clear to me that, in spite of their total marginalization, the deniers somehow felt privileged. They saw themselves as applying the scientific method "where angels fear to tread", whereas the established historians ceased being scientists when the tabooed subject of the Holocaust came near. They also know many details about the war and can win in debate against anyone who comes unprepared. It takes specialized knowledge to identify the holes in their case.
It is not true that all the negationists are neo-Nazis, though some definitely are, e.g. Eric Thomson and Ernst Ziindel, authors of The Hitler We Loved and Why. German chemist Germar Rudolf claims he is in it to redeem German honour, as do Siegfried Verbeke and many others. In France, Leftists too are prominent Holocaust deniers, also denying the Armenian and Cambodian genocides in passing. In the periphery of negationism, we also find some Jews, like Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, the brother of the famous Leftist politician, who defended leading denier Robert Faurisson, along with famous Jewish linguist Noam Chomsky; or the late John Sack, who took the Holocaust for granted but documented that Jews had taken revenge by leading and manning concentration camps for Germans in Soviet-occupied Central Europe. David Cole went farthest: he questioned the Auschwitz "dogma" in a film he made on the spot. So it is not even true that they are all anti-Jewish, though most of them are. David Irving is not really a Holocaust denier (though author of provocative theses, e.g. that the Holocaust was organized by Heinrich Himmler without Hitler's knowledge), but certainly signs for many anti-Jewish utterances.
Moreover, it is not true that Holocaust deniers are liars. Most of them really believe what they say. They may be wrong, they may be speaking untruth, but they don't believe that what they say is untruth, they really believe it. Hence, they are not liars. The black-and-white psychology thatexplains strange opinions as just a matter of "lies" may satisfy some simpletons, but it is just not accurate. Here we see a case of people who, for good or bad motives, but at any rate with full belief, formulate a historical account that is fundamentally wrong.
Negationists sometimes prove right on the periphery, and this gives them the self-confidence to take on the big issue, the Holocaust. They attack the childish Hollywood account of World War 2 that portrays the Allies as thoroughly good and the Germans as unspeakably evil. Thus, the common story that Hitler refused to shake hands with the American black athlete Jesse Owens has proved false, exactly as the negationists had been saying all along. They advertise James Bacque's well-documented thesis that the French and the Americans killed hundreds of thousands German prisoners-of-war after the end of the war, in violation of all war conventions. Indians may also approve of their attacks on anti-Nazi war leader Winston Churchill, whom we learned to venerate but whose role in Indian politics is not so commendable: he could have sent relief for the Bengali famine (1943) but refused to, and is thus at least partly responsible for the death of several millions. But none of that nullifies the Holocaust.
I also came away with the impression that the tide of negationism is definitely waning. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the war generation and even the subsequent generation are disappearing, and the younger generations don't have the same interest in the history of World War 2. Among leading negationists, death, old age and mutual quarrels are having their effect. Secondly, some negationists themselves have changed their minds. This is a fairly important indicator. Thus, for instance, it says a lot that many Out-of-India Theory votaries have been Aryan Invasion
Theory adherents once: it ultimately doesn't prove anything but it is a sign of weakness of the Aryan Invasion Theory. In the present case, my colleague-Orientalist Christian Lindtner used to be a negationist, but nowadays he agrees that Hitler did plan to kill the Jews.
Even more interesting is the case of David Irving. Though he dropped out of university and has no history diploma, he fully earned the title of historian by doing vast amounts of original research. Though his name is not often mentioned, many established historians use his research findings. He is routinely called a Holocaust denier but mostly wrote on other aspects of World War 2, and regarding the Holocaust, he has come to this differentiated conclusion: yes, there was a planned extermination of the Jews, which grew in Himmler's mind from the improvised mass executions of Jews by generals on the Eastern Front. Any quotations from Hitler or Himmler before the invasion of the Soviet Union condemning mass killings as a solution for racial "problems", which the negationists do muster, do not disprove that after this invasion, the Holocaust did take place. It was organized in secret, and
Irving confirms that the SS men involved had to take an oath of secrecy.
The Holocaust consists of three parts, two of which are totally admitted by Irving, the third only partially: the shootings on the Eastern Front, the extermination of the Polish Jews in TreblinkalSabibor/Belzec/Majdanek, and Auschwitz. Irving sees Auschwitz as a less lethal destination (Anne Frank's family of four counted one survivor and three victims of disease and malnutrition, none was killed) for the better- connected West-European Jews, of whom enough survived to tell the tale of horror. That is why Auschwitz became a household name while the other camps, where the Polish Jews were completely exterminated, are not. Irving calls Auschwitz "a labour camp with a high death toll" rather than an extermination camp. Here he is essentially on the same wavelength as the other negationists, but he insists that any revision of what happened in Auschwitz doesn't nullify the Holocaust.
Negationism is now only a force in the Islamic world. The negationist research is done by Westerners, but the mass of believers and occasionally the sponsors are Islamic. Thus, teaching the Holocaust proves very difficult in schools with a high Muslim presence. In 2006, the Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted a negationist conference in Teheran where most of the Holocaust deniers were present. India was represented by Dalit activist (but himself non-Dalit) V.. T. Rajshekar Shetty, who wants to link he Jews with the "Jews of India", meaning the Brahmins. He doesn't seem to know that Hitler expressed his contempt for the Hindu caste system with its hereditary priesthood, upholding the celibatary Catholic priesthood, directly recruited from the people, as a healthier alternative.
Jihad negationism in India
Meanwhile in India, negationism has been growing from strength to strength. In that respect, my book has proven totally ineffective. The history distorters have only tightened their control of the education system. The attempt to create an alternative school of history has failed. In the early 90s, Sita Ram Goel gathered around him a few historians who wrote books about various aspects of Islamic doctrine and history. But they are all long dead and have made no dent in the negationist power position. Now that all kinds of local Hindu initiatives are being taken, some of them (like the Hindu Human Rights group based in London) have taken to spreading Goel's message, but they are fighting an uphill battle against the negationist establishment.
The Sangh Parivar, described by so-called experts as an anti-Islamic movement, looks the other way when Islam is criticized. They may embroil themselves in street riots with Muslim thugs, but they have nothing to do with Islam criticism. To the contrary, they say that "Islam is more sinned again than sinning". They blame the British for creating the Ayodhya quarrel, though this started long before the Britons set foot in India. Much against the thesis of this book, L.K. Advani on his website describes the famines in India under British rule as "the greatest genocide in history". Did the British plan to exterminate the Indians? Intention is crucial in genocide: the Ukrainian famine-genocide or Holodomor (1932-33), which killed about as many as the Holocaust, was intended to kill; but in the Great Leap Forward (1959-62), the man-made famine which killed tens of millions was "mere" collateral damage to a failed policy. Communism was to blame for the policy, but the killing was unintended. Similarly, colonial capitalism was (at least partly) to blame for the British-provoked famines, but there was no intention of killing, so the term "genocide" does not apply.
This business of blaming the British goes as far as to hold the British responsible for Partition. This is a brazen-faced lie, though one that can make you very popular in India. Partition was imposed both on the Hindus and on the British colonizer by the Muslim League. This party adopted the Pakistan resolution in 1940. Show me one pre-1946 document where anyone of the British colonial establishment advocates partitioning their coherent South-Asian empire. It is only at the fag end of their rule that the beginning Cold War created at least one advantage in the Partition, viz. that one of the two states would ally itself with the Westem bloc and serve as an outpost to keep watch on the Soviet Union (and from 1949 also on Communist China). But by that time, the Muslim
League had long won Muslim public opinion over to the Pakistan plan. Muslim South-Asians are autonomous agents, they can think something up and impose it on the British intruders as well as on the Hindu natives. By contrast, Hindu Britain-bashers think that the Muslims were just stooges of the British, unable to develop agency themselves. Islam does not figure in their world-view at all, for its existence since long before European colonization started would upset their obsessively anti-British narrative.
Meanwhile, negationism has only spread and intensified. Terror acts including 9/11 have only led to a more positive press for Islam. With every Islamic terror attack, more and more politicians lined up at mosques to reassure the Muslim community that the wider society is behind them and doesn't blame them for what some "extremist madmen" had done. The reason for this is one of the fundamental considerations that give Jihad deniers a good conscience: the need to protect our Muslim fellow-men from revenge.
Negationists tend to confuse the facts of the past with the needs of the present. They fear that criticism of Islam will lead to violence against Muslims. Experience teache otherwise. In America, which Hindus consider a big lunatic asylum, some gun-toting illiterates have committed a few anti-Muslim acts. Their targets have as often as not been non-Muslims whom they mistook for Muslims, such as the Sikhs killed in a mass shooting or the Hindu pushed under a train. Such errors already indicate that we are dealing with people of low education, who certainly don't practise Islam criticism. Those who seriously study Islam, by contrast, have never become violent again t Muslims, though some of them have personally suffered Muslim violence. That Islam criticism is unrelated to anti-Muslim violence is further proven by the fact that the Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have killed a great many Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Libya, yet they only had words of praise for Islam, the "religion of peace". In India too, there is an inverse proportion between Islam criticism, practised by a handful of scholars who wouldn't hurt a fly, and anti-Muslim violence practised by illiterate street thugs who are patronized by movements uttering praise of Islam.
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