Is There a Hindu Fundamentalism?
They try to tolerate, accept, or even appreciate exclusivism, intolerance, and fundamentalism when practiced by those of other religious beliefs. For example, which Hindus are criticizing the far more obvious fundamentalism and exclusivism among Christians and Muslims? Meanwhile any criticism by Hindus of other religions, even when justified, may be regarded by other Hindus as intolerance.
In addition, many Hindus, particularly of the modern socialist-communist variety, brand even pride in Hinduism as fundamentalism.
Another related term that we meet with in the Indian press today is that of "Hindu chauvinism," though terms such as "Christian chauvinism" or "Islamic chauvinism" do not occur in either the Indian or the Western press. Chauvinists believe in the special superiority of their particular group.
This term is used mainly relative to white chauvinists, those who think that whites are generally better than dark-skinned people, or in the case of male chauvinists or those who think that men are inherently better than women. Hindus may praise their religion, and Hindus often use flowery and exaggerated language to praise things, but few if any Hindus are claiming that Hindus own the truth and that those of other backgrounds or beliefs cannot find it.
Christians and Muslims routinely believe that only members of their religion go to heaven and everyone else, particularly idol worshiping people like Hindus, go to hell. Which Hindus chauvinists have similar ideas? The Vatican recently told its monks and nuns not to experiment with Yoga and Eastern forms of religious practice, which it branded as selfish, false, and misleading.
Should we not therefore call the Pope a Christian chauvinist religious leader? Yet Hindus who are more tolerant than this may be designated in such a manner. Hindus are not only not chauvinistic, they are generally suffering from a lack of self-esteem and an inferiority complex by which they are afraid to really express themselves or their religion.
They have been beaten down by centuries of foreign rule and ongoing attempts to convert them. The British treated them as racially inferior and both Christians and Muslims treated them as religiously perverted. That some Hindus may express pride in their religion is a good sign and shows a Hindu awakening. Unfortunately the groups who may be challenged by this awakening have labeled this pride chauvinistic.
Naturally some Hindu groups may express this pride in an excessive way, just as happened with the Black pride idea in America during the civil rights movement, but this is only an attempt to counter a lack of pride and self-respect; it is hardly the assertion of any enduring cultural militancy and does not have a history like the fundamentalism of Christianity and Islam, which goes back to the early eras of these faiths.
Such terms as "fundamentalist" and "chauvinist" are much less applicable to Hinduism than to other religions and generally a great exaggeration. They are a form of name-calling, and do not represent any clearly thought out understanding. It is also interesting to note that many of the people who brand Hindus in this light are often themselves members of more exclusivist ideologies, which have an agenda to gain world-domination and to take over India.
This does not mean that Hindus should not be criticized. Certainly they can be criticized for many things. They have to really look at who they are and what they are doing, because in most cases they are not living up to their inner potential or their heritage. On a social level many Hindus are trapped in backward social customs, but those who are not backward are usually caught in the corruption or materialism of modern society.