Book Review | Politics Of Hate Fuelled By Religion

Book Review | Politics Of Hate Fuelled By Religion
Drawing on a wealth of archival material, interviews and research, Ispahani provides a comprehensive overview of the political and social landscape of South Asia, charting the influence of Hindu nationalism in India, Islamic conservatism in Pakistan, and the rise of Buddhist chauvinism in Sri Lanka, among other trends.

The book explores the relationship between religion and politics, and how the use of religion in political discourse has become increasingly prevalent in South Asian societies.

The author focuses on the ways in which political parties, leaders, and ideologues have sought to use religious identity as a means of securing political power, furthering political agendas, stoking fear, and mobilizing support.

One of the greatest strengths of the book is the comparative approach that Ispahani employs, analysing religious majoritarianism across different countries and contexts. Through this lens, she identifies the similarities and differences in the way religious identity is used as a political tool in different societies.

For instance, she notes the ways in which the BJP in India and the Awami League in Bangladesh have used religious rhetoric to shore up support among their respective Hindu and Muslim populations. This comparison not only illustrates the wide-ranging effects of religious majoritarianism in South Asia, but also expands our understanding of the phenomenon beyond India, where it is often most discussed.

Another strength of Politics of Hate is how well researched it is, drawing on an extensive array of sources, including data, literature, reports, and interviews, to make a strong case for the phenomenon of religious majoritarianism in South Asia.

Ispahani makes great use of and applies anecdotal evidence and case studies to illustrate the workings of religious majoritarianism in different contexts, making it an accessible read that maintains rigor and comprehensive understanding.

A significant contribution of the book is its aim to explore the underlying reasons behind the upsurge in religious majoritarianism in South Asia. Ispahani deftly locates the roots of this phenomenon in the longstanding mistrust and animosity between different religious communities in the region, which has been exacerbated by historical grievances, exclusionary policies, and nationalist rhetoric.

As such, the book is not simply an analysis of the phenomenon of religious majoritarianism, but also an exploration of the historical and social factors that have contributed to its rise. However, one drawback of the book is that it does not provide a clear roadmap of the future ahead on addressing the rise of religious majoritarianism in South Asia.

It seems to be content with explaining the phenomenon and outlining its causes. While the author touches on some solutions, such as reforming state policies, promoting interfaith dialogue or increasing civic education, a more in-depth exploration of such solutions or more practical ways to tackle the issue would have been helpful in creating pathways where future damage could be limited at a large scale level.

The book is a sobering reminder of how religion can be used as a divisive tool by politicians and ideologues to further their agendas at the expense of minority communities.

It is a timely reminder, considering how religious majoritarianism has been on the rise in parts of South Asia and beyond, leading to sectarian violence and a host of other social and political ills.

Ispahani’s book, Politics of Hate: Religious Majoritarianism in South Asia provides an important and robust examination of how different religious communities in South Asia increasingly identify themselves in political terms.

Politics of Hate offers a nuanced understanding of the historical, social, and political factors driving the phenomenon of religious majoritarianism in South Asia, and its comparative approach makes it accessible to readers beyond the region.

While the lack of a clear roadmap for addressing the issue may be a concern as to how murky the situation is, the insights offered by the book are invaluable to those seeking to comprehend the dynamics of South Asian politics and the role of religion therein.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.