Head to head with hate

Hell has no fury like a Hindu nationalist scorned — as I found out after my Ram Madhav interview.

Written by Mehdi Hasan | Updated: December 31, 2015 12:08 pm
ram madhav, ram madhav interview, al jazeera ram madhav, mehdi hasan, mehdi hasan ram madhav, ram madhav al jazeera, al jazeera mehdi hasan, india news In a talk program titled ‘Is Modi’s India flirting with fascism?’, Mehdi Hasan grilled Ram Madhav on issues ranging from Kashmir to religious intolerance in India.

“Anger and intolerance,” observed the greatest of Indians, Mohandas Gandhi, “are the enemies of correct understanding”.

So what would the Mahatma say if he were alive today, in modern India, with his own Twitter account and Facebook page? What would he make of the anger and intolerance of the country’s right-wing internet trolls, long ago dubbed the “bhakts”, and condemned by the former Indian intelligence official B. Raman for their “abuse, vituperation, disinformation [and] character assassination”?

To witness from afar the angry antics of the bhakt army — or the Modi toadies to quote Salman Rushdie — is one thing; to be on the receiving end of their relentless hate and bile is another. Over the past three years, on my show, Head to Head, on Al Jazeera English, I have interviewed more than 30 high-profile guests from around the world, ranging from Israeli settler leader Dani Dayan to “New Atheist” scientist Richard Dawkins to the former Pakistani ISI chief Asad Durrani.

Yet never have I experienced the sort of backlash that I have had to endure online over the past few days, in the wake of my headline-grabbing interview with Ram Madhav, national general secretary of the BJP and former spokesperson for the RSS. Not from Nigerians, Israelis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Americans or Britons.
Hell, it seems, has no fury like a Hindu nationalist scorned. I have been denounced and defamed as a “closet Islamist”, a “funder of ISIS”, and — perhaps the most damning appellation of all in The Bumper Book of Bhakt Political Insults — a “Pakistani”.

For the record, I have no ties to Pakistan whatsoever. I am, you might say, a child of India: Born and raised in the UK but to parents born and raised in India. I spent most of my summer holidays as a child in Hyderabad and even got married there.

Yet in today’s Narendra Modi-led India, those Muslims who dare speak out are told to go to Pakistan; those liberals or leftists who dare condemn the BJP for creating a “climate of intolerance” are accused of trying to “defame the government and in turn… defame the image of India”, to quote Madhav on my show, thereby conflating the ruling BJP with the nation of India.

As for the laughable charge of “Islamism”, I happen to be the author of a piece headlined, “There is nothing Islamic about a state”. My 2014 Head to Head interview with Muslim thinker Tariq Ramadan was titled, “Has Political Islam failed?” (Yes, almost a decade ago, I gave a speech in which I regrettably and foolishly quoted a verse from the Quran that refers, metaphorically, to unthinking non-Muslims as “cattle” but — and here’s what the bhakts conveniently overlook — I also quoted a verse from the Quran that refers to unthinking Muslims as “cattle”, too.)

But why focus on the message when you can shoot the messenger? Let’s be clear: There was no conspiracy against Madhav or the BJP. First, it was pure coincidence that my interview, recorded in Oxford on December 7, was aired on December 25, the day the Indian prime minister arrived in Lahore to meet with his Pakistani counterpart. Believe it or not, Prime Minister Modi did not share in advance with Al Jazeera his secret plans to wish Nawaz Sharif a happy birthday in person.

Second, prior to appearing on Head to Head, Madhav was personally briefed by my producers about the “gladiatorial” format of the show and claimed to have enjoyed watching my earlier confrontation with General Durrani. (Perhaps he and his supporters only enjoy interviews in which I pose tough questions to Pakistanis.)
Third, the title of the show, “Is India flirting with fascism?”, is no more biased or provocative than the title of my 2014 Head to Head with feminist Mona Eltahawy, “Do Arab men hate women?”, or of my 2013 clash with author Irshad Manji, “What is wrong with Islam today?”

The inconvenient truth for the bhakts is that a senior BJP official not only pointed at his Muslim interviewer and said “your ISIS” but also admitted to supporting the RSS vision of “Akhand Bharat”, in which Pakistan and Bangladesh are re-united with India. The BJP has been forced to disown Madhav’s comments, which undermined Modi’s visit to Pakistan and gave the opposition plenty of anti-Hindutva ammunition.

Madhav’s latest claim that his “Akhand Bharat” remarks were in relation to a “cultural idea” is disingenuous, to say the least. Speaking to me on Head to Head, the BJP national general secretary referred explicitly to political, not cultural, unification: “If two Germanies can come together, if two Vietnams can come together, what makes you to think… that Pakistan and India cannot come together?”

This important admission came at a personal cost: The bhakt army continues to hound me on social media. So, do I regret interviewing Ram Madhav? Not at all. As the old adage goes, the job of a journalist is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. It is a principle that has underpinned every single one of my interviews, whether with the former prime minister of Israel or the current foreign minister of Qatar.

Now, whether Madhav regrets appearing on Head to Head, however, is another matter. On the issue of “Akhand Bharat”, after all, the former RSS spin doctor has a lot more spinning to do.

The writer is presenter of ‘Head to Head’ on Al Jazeera English. His interview with Ram Madhav is available at www.aljazeera.com/headtohead

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    Sandro Ghatak
    Jan 1, 2016 at 6:09 pm
    That was not an interview. The Islamists needed to lure someone from the opposite camp to bash. Madhav should have stopped mehdi's attacks and asked whether he was interviewing or debating him to the leers of the home crowd. For interviews you ask a question an get a response or opinion. But mehdi was pouncing on him and just blurting his own biased points of view.
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      Shady Hasan
      Jan 4, 2016 at 1:06 am
      Everybody calm down. The guy works for Al Jazeera, it's his JOB to pick on Hindus, Jews and other "kuffars" and show them in a bad light.
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        adbudl
        Jan 1, 2016 at 6:50 am
        mehdi haaan ia a issllamic bigot... closset jihaaadi.. he got molested again on the stage.. low life coward rajjakar.. he is...
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          adbudl
          Jan 1, 2016 at 6:51 am
          mosssaad maims... haha... mozzies are inherent genetic cowards.. never won a war....
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            akhil
            Jan 1, 2016 at 2:29 am
            The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim The Beltway Snipers were Muslims The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim The underwear Bomber was a Muslim The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims The London Subway Bombers were Muslims The Moscow Theatre Attackers were Muslims The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims The Iranian Emby Takeover, was by Muslims The Beirut U.S. Emby bombers were Muslims The Libyan U.S. Emby Attack was by Musiims The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims The Kenyan U.S, Emby Bombers were Muslims The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims The Bombay and Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims' Think of it: Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem Hindus living with Christians = No Problem Hindus living with Jews = No Problem Christians living with Shintos = No Problem Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem Confusians living with Baha'is = No Problem Baha'is living with Jews = No Problem Jews living with Atheists = No Problem Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem Hindus living with Baha'is = No Problem Baha'is living with Christians = No Problem Christians living with Jews = No Problem Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem Muslims living with Hindus = Problem Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem Muslims living with Christians = Problem Muslims living with Jews = Problem Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem Muslims living with Baha'is = Problem Muslims living with Shintos = Problem Muslims living with Atheists = Problem MUSLIMS LIVING WITH MUSLIMS = BIG PROBLEM **********SO THIS LEAD TO ***************** They’re not happy in Gaza They're not happy in Egypt They're not happy in Libya They're not happy in Morocco They're not happy in Iran They're not happy in Iraq They're not happy in Yemen They're not happy in Afghanistan They're not happy in stan They're not happy in Syria They're not happy in Lebanon They're not happy in Nigeria They're not happy in Kenya They're not happy in Sudan ******** So, where are they happy? ********** They're happy in Australia They're happy in England They're happy in Belgium They're happy in France They're happy in Italy They're happy in Germany They're happy in Sweden They're happy in the USA and Canada They're happy in Norway and India They're happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they blame? Not Islam... Not their leadership... Not themselves... THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!! And they want to change the countries they're happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they were unhappy and finally they will be get hammered !!!! Islamic Jihad: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION ISIS: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Al-Qaeda: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Taliban: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Hamas: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Hezbollah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Boko Haram: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Al-Nusra: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Abu Sayyaf: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Al-Badr: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Muslim Brotherhood: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Lashkar-e-Taiba: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Palestine Liberation Front: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Ansaru: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Jemaah Islamiyah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION Abdullah Azzam Brigades: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION AND A LOT MORE!!!!!!!
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              sak
              May 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm
              Below comments of some Hindus shows their thinking towards Muslims. One day they will pay.
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                Amit
                Jan 3, 2016 at 5:54 pm
                Interesting use of the word "scorned" as if India needed a certificate from Mr. Hasan. The problem with the show was that Mr. Hasan did not appear to be balanced. He kept selectively quoted negative headlines, conveniently ignored other facts. For example, Muslims in India have their own civil code and are free to practice their religion. Does UK, where Mr Hasan resides, offer him that ? Also, how about the Haj Subsidy, which is given to Muslims, when he was talking about the promotion of Geeta by Haryana government.
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                  ws
                  Jan 1, 2016 at 11:43 am
                  I love how all of you keep proving Mehdi's point with your comments. Have a wonderful day my not-so-violent brothers!
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                    ws
                    Jan 1, 2016 at 11:46 am
                    That doesn't make any sense, just like any another bhakt comment here so I don't blame you one bit for that pathetic attempt at a pun.
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                      Chandrakant Mohan
                      Jan 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm
                      An un civilized, ungrateful and ignorant Muslim, who shamelessly dared to call the British Christians, who gave him better life and citizenship, as cattle, is now trying to masquerade as a civilized man and a victim of Hindutva intolerance (Iam from Hydrabad and my uncle knew his father, who was the local Butcher-who taken to Britan, by well placed Muslims of the area working there - they wanted Halal meat Hydrabad style).He is play acting as if hurt being called by the Bakths.Actually stanis are better than most of the Indian Muslims-stanis voted,fought and killed for stan and lived there.But the Indian Muslims voted,fought and killed for stan, but did not go there to live. Mehdi Han may even claim that people become Patriots by mid night! About his cattle comment-He is right in a way-no humans with common sense would grant citizenship to such a dreg from Hydrabad! Quran 62:5 it self b Muslims like Mehdi Hasan, who do not live under sharia law as Book carrying Donkey.
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                        Chandrakant Mohan
                        Jan 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm
                        Mehdi Hasan's Quran asks Muslims to collect religious tax( Jazia) from the Jews and the Christians or to fight them.The british should do the same to Mahdi Hasan and his family.
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                          dev
                          Jan 15, 2016 at 8:35 pm
                          Mehdi kept asking questions, before ram could reply or explain in detail, he kept poking him with his own comments. He should have given time to ram to answer properly, just the way he did to Hina rabbani khar. In other words he behaved like Arnab Goswami. Now a days, it's rare instance to see a journalist behave like a journalist. Thanks to congress [INC] money.
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                            dev
                            Jan 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm
                            Yes, a true Indian is the bakht, else muslim.
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                              Dushyant Kumar
                              Jan 3, 2016 at 3:05 pm
                              For those whose are mistakenly believing that Mehndi is a liberal; here is a video where he rant like a mad mullah (skip to 1:10 minute) M
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                                Abdul bin
                                Jan 1, 2016 at 2:57 am
                                @Akhil How dare you? Islam is a religion of Peace.
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                                  Farooque Khan
                                  Jan 2, 2016 at 1:16 pm
                                  It's amazing how human beings choose to live burning in the hatred they create themselves and feeding it by their own imaginations - without making least effort to reach out to and understand each other. Adding insult to the injury they claim their religion teaches them peace, love, non-violence, blah, blah, ..... ha ha ha.
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                                    fd
                                    Jan 1, 2016 at 9:44 pm
                                    I don't think you comprehend English too well if you thought Mehdi didn't own Ram, let alone Dawkins. Typical bhakt though. ;)
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                                      fd
                                      Jan 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm
                                      Swamy never challenged Mehdi Hasan you delusional moron. Although I'd love to see Mehdi tear him into bits intellectually just to see the look on those bhakts' faces.
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                                        Rangaesh Gadasalli
                                        Jan 1, 2016 at 6:15 am
                                        Ram Madhav spoke about some thing and crossed the lines. No one want a united India Pak and Bangladesh. all we want is a united federation of Indo pak Bangla to benefit all the three countries. Both Pak and Bangladesh can take advantage of the huge middle cl market of the world , that is India. They can stop spending on weapons and others. tourism can bring rich rewards. all India needs from Pak is that they should stop this terror exporting business. will they do that?
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                                          Taseer Ahmad
                                          Feb 1, 2016 at 3:11 pm
                                          Madhav would have the same problem if he was here instead of you.
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                                            I believe
                                            Jan 1, 2016 at 5:36 am
                                            Not to defend Ram Madhav, he is an - and in that interview he behaved as a complete buffoon. But Mehdi Hasan is indeed an islamist, a homophobe, an anti-abortionist (by his own statement). However, none of that has to do anything with the interview.
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