7 August 1959 |
Koenraad Elst (born 7 August 1959) is a Belgian writer and orientalist (without institutional affiliation). He was an editor of the New Right Flemish nationalist journal Teksten, Kommentaren en Studies from 1992 to 1995, focusing on criticism of Islam, various other conservative and Flemish separatist publications such as Nucleus, 't Pallieterke, Secessie, or the neoconservative The Brussels Journal and Middle East Forum. He also wrote for the business weekly Trends and for Inforiënt, a monthly issued by the Asian Studies Department of his home university. Elst has authored fifteen English language books on topics related to Indian politics and communalism, and is one of the few western writers to have written extensively and taken position in favour of Indian nationalism and politics, so-called "revivalism"; he participated actively in the debate on the Aryan Invasion Theory. His writings are frequently featured in right-wing publications and many of his books are published by Voice of India publishing house.
Elst was born to a Flemish Catholic family. Some of his family were Christian missionaries. He graduated in Indology, Sinology and Philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven. He received a Ph.D. from the same university in 1999. The main portion of his Ph.D. dissertation on Hindu revivalism and Hindu reform movements eventually became his book Decolonizing the Hindu Mind. Other parts of his Ph.D. thesis were published in Who is a Hindu and The Saffron Swastika. He studied at the Banaras Hindu University in India. Several of his books on communalism and Indian politics are published by the Voice of India publishing house.
During a stay at the Banaras Hindu University between 1988 and 1992, he interviewed many Indian leaders and writers. He wrote his first book about the Ayodhya conflict. While establishing himself as a columnist for a number of Belgian and Indian papers, he frequently went to India to study various aspects of its ethno-religio-political configuration and interview Hindu and other leaders and thinkers.
In 1989, Elst met Sita Ram Goel after reading Goel's book History of Hindu Christian Encounters. Elst sent Goel a manuscript of his first book Ram Janmabhoomi Vs. Babri Masjid: A Case Study in Hindu Muslim Conflict. Goel was impressed with Elst's script: "I could not stop after I started reading it. I took it to Ram Swarup the same evening. He read it during the night and rang me up next morning. Koenraad Elst's book, he said, should be published immediately." In August 1990, L. K. Advani released Koenraad Elst's book about the Ayodhya conflict at a public function presided over by Girilal Jain.
His research on the ideological development of Hindu revivalism earned him a Ph.D. at Leuven in 1998. He has also written about multiculturalism, language policy issues, ancient Chinese history and philosophy, comparative religion, and the Aryan invasion debate. Elst became a well-known author on Indian politics during the 1990s in parallel with the BJP's rise to prominence on the national stage. He has mostly been an independent scholar without affiliation.
Elst says that his language has "softened and become more focused" on viewpoints rather than on groups of people such as the "Muslims or the Marxist historians." He writes that he has reoriented his scholarly interests towards more fundamental philosophical studies and questions of ancient history, rather than questions in the centre of contemporary political struggles. He worked part-time as an investigator for the Belgian senator Jurgen Ceder until spring 2013.
Hinduism and Indian politics
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Elst is one of the few western writers (along with François Gautier) to defend the Hindu nationalism movements, though he makes some secondary criticisms about particular points. Of these, about Hindutva specifically, he says, "there is no intellectual life in this Hindutva movement". He also says that Hindutva advocates have not developed a "wellfounded coherent vision on a range of topics which any social thinker and any political party will have to address one day", and that there is as yet very little original or comprehensive work being done in the Hindutva movement. According to Elst, "Hindutva is a fairly crude ideology, borrowing heavily from European nationalisms with their emphasis on homogeneity. Under the conditions of British colonialism, it was inevitable that some such form of Hindu nationalism would arise, but I believe better alternatives have seen the light, more attuned to the genius of Hindu civilization." Sometimes, Elst is critical of Hindutva for not going far enough in its criticism of Islam. He has also criticized fringe Hindutva writers for claiming that the Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple, or for claiming that the Vedas contain all the secrets of modern science.
Elst has criticized anti-Hinduism and anti-Hindu biases in the media and academia. Elst writes "when Hindus complain of factual problems such as missionary subversion or Muslim terrorism, it is always convenient to portray this spontaneous and truthful perception as an artefact of "RSS propaganda".
Elst's book Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid, a Case Study in Hindu-Muslim conflict (1990) was the first book published by a non-Indian on the Ayodhya debate. His opinion is that "until 1989, there was a complete consensus in all sources (Hindu, Muslim and European) which spoke out on the matter, viz. that the Babri Masjid had been built in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple." He claimed that politically motivated academics have, through their grip on the media, manufactured doubts concerning this coherent and well-attested tradition. Elst alleges that the anti-Temple group in the Ayodhya conflict have committed serious breaches of academic deontology and says that the "overruling of historical evidence with a high-handed use of academic and media power" in the Ayodhya controversy was the immediate reason to involve himself in the debate.
Elst's book Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam makes the case that the Islamic history in India is being whitewashed[by whom?]. He claims that there is a larger effort to rewrite India's history and to whitewash Islam. He says that the goal and methods of this alleged history rewriting resembles the denial of the Nazi holocaust, and that in India jihad negationists are in control of the academic establishment and of the press.
Elst's book The Saffron Swastika proposes an examination of the rhetoric of "Hindu fascism". He argues that "objective outsiders are not struck by any traces of fascism in the Hindutva movements, let alone in the general thought current of anti-imperialist Hindu awakening. While one should always be vigilant for traces of totalitarianism in any ideology or movement, the obsession with fascism in the anti-Hindu rhetoric of the secularists is not the product of an analysis of the data, but of their own political compulsions."
On the topic of the "Indigenous Aryans" polemic within Hindu nationalism, Elst writes:
"One thing which keeps on astonishing me in the present debate is the complete lack of doubt in both camps. Personally, I don’t think that either theory, of Aryan invasion and of Aryan indigenousness, can claim to have been "proven" by prevalent standards of proof; even though one of the contenders is getting closer. Indeed, while I have enjoyed pointing out the flaws in the AIT statements of the politicized Indian academic establishment and its American amplifiers, I cannot rule out the possibility that the theory which they are defending may still have its merits."
Unlike many proponents of "Indigenous Aryanism", Elst maintains the validity of the comparative-linguistics approach: the Hindu nationalist N.S. Rajaram criticized Elst's book Asterisk in Bharopiyasthan because of Elst's alleged agenda of "rescuing Indo-European linguistics from oblivion". Elst's views on the Aryan Invasion Theory were also criticized by, for example, Hans Hock, Edwin Bryant George Cardona and by Michael Witzel.
Some of his books or articles contain harsh criticisms of Islam as a whole (among others "Wahi: the Supernatural Basis of Islam", "From Ayodhya to Nazareth", an article written in the form of an open letter to the Pope and Indian church Bishop Alan de Lastic, whom Elst calls "Your Eminences", and in which he invites them to ask Muslims for repentance towards Christians, or "Ayodhya And After", a book in which he delves into the realm of establishing a purported link between Ayodhya and the conflict between Palestinians and Israel, not an isolated attempt in some far-right European movements (section 2.2 Jerusalem and Ayodhya, similarly, section 13.2 of that book is called Islam and Nazism). More precisely, Elst argues often that "not Muslims but Islam is the problem". His views on Islam are in line with the neoconservative think-tank "Middle East Forum", to which he has contributed.
Nouvelle Droite and Vlaams Belang
Elst contributes to nationalist New Right Flemish publications, and has shown sympathy to the Nouvelle Droite movement since the early 1990s. He has criticised that movement in relation to particular topics. He said that the collaborationist aspects of the careers of two Belgian writers were covered up in Nouvelle Droite articles, and that he suspected that "its critique of egalitarianism in the name of 'differentialism' could at heart simply be a plea against equality in favour of inequality, Old-Right style".
However, his claims to have no hostility towards the people involved with Nouvelle Droite:
Wisely or unwisely, I have not taken my scepticism to be a reason for any active hostility to the Nouvelle Droite people, some of whom I count as friends... Time permitting, I accept invitations from that side, so that I spoke at their conference in Antwerp in 2000, if only as a stand-in for an announced speaker who had cancelled at the last minute for health reasons (Pim Fortuyn, no less, the Dutch liberal sociology professor who criticized Islam, subsequently went into politics, and ended up murdered by a leftist).
Jan De Zutter criticized Elst for being too close with the Vlaams Belang, as in June 1992, Koenraad Elst gave a speech directed against Islam at the Vlaams Blok Colloquium. Elst said that he spoke there because it was the only party where the "problem of Islam" was brought up, but that he also explicitly said that he did not agree with the party's solution for that problem, and disapproved of their xenophobia. He stated that the VB can not be and was never his party because of its xenophobia and ethnocentrism. Though he himself denies any affinity to the party program, he admits to "lukewarm" sympathy for the Flemish cause (of independence). Lucas Catherine contrasted Elst's viewpoint with the viewpoint of Filip Dewinter, who according to him could not have been very happy with Elst's opinion that not Muslims, but Islam, is the problem.
Elst has published in English and Dutch. He contributed for example to the conservative magazine Nucleus. He is also a contributor to the conservative internet magazine The Brussels Journal, the Flemish satirical weekly 't Pallieterke and other Belgian and Dutch publications. He has also written for mainstream Indian magazines like Outlook India. He wrote a postscript to a book written by Daniel Pipes (The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West). He has also published critiques of Islamism in the West. According to Sanjay Subrahmanyam, he has connections to the far-right Vlaams Blok. though Dr. Subrahmanyam did not provide any supporting evidence.
Manini Chatterjee, in a review in the Calcutta Telegraph, called Elst's book Ramjanmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid a "very bad book". She also said that it was marred by miserably tentative terminology, like "maybe" and "possibly". Paul Teunissen's review of the same book criticizes Elst for the unfavourable portrayal of Syed Shahabuddin.
Thomas Blom Hansen described Elst as a "Belgian Catholic of a radical anti-Muslim persuasion who tries to make himself useful as a 'fellow traveller' of the Hindu nationalist movement". Ashis Nandy criticized the alleged dishonesty and moral vacuity of Elst.
Sarvepalli Gopal in the book Anatomy of a Confrontation calls Elst "a Catholic practitioner of polemics" who "fights the Crusades all over again on Indian soil". He also says that it is difficult to take an author, who "speaks of the centuries when there were Muslim rulers in India as a bloodsoaked catastrophe", seriously.
Ayub Khan says that Koenraad Elst is the most prominent advocate of Sangh Parivar in the West. He further says: "Such is his importance in Hindutva circles that L.K. Advani quoted him at length while deposing before the Liberhans Commission investigation the demolition of Babri Masjid." In a reply to Ayub Khan, Elst says that he has been critical of the Sangh Parivar in his writings.
- Dr. Ambedkar - A True Aryan. 1993.
- Asterisk in Bharopiyasthan. Voice of India.
- Ayodhya, The Finale - Science versus Secularism the Excavations Debate (2003) ISBN 81-85990-77-8
- Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple. 2002. ISBN 81-85990-75-1.
- "Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society". 1991. 
- BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence. 1997. ISBN 81-85990-47-6.
- Decolonizing the Hindu Mind - Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism. Delhi: Rupa. 2001. ISBN 81-7167-519-0.
- The Demographic Siege. 1997. ISBN 81-85990-50-6.
- "Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar". Voice of India. 1993.
- Gandhi and Godse - A review and a critique. ISBN 81-85990-71-9. (transl: Pourquoi j’ai tué Gandhi, examen critique de la défense de Nathuram Godse par Koenraad Elst, Les Belles Lettres)
- Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam. 1992. ISBN 81-85990-01-8.
- Psychology of Prophetism - A Secular Look at the Bible. 1993. ISBN 81-85990-00-X.
- Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid. A Case Study in Hindu-Muslim Conflict. Voice of India, Delhi 1990. (a large part of this book is included in Vinay Chandra Mishra and Parmanand Singh, eds.: Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid, Historical Documents, Legal Opinions & Judgments, Bar Council of India Trust, Delhi 1991.)
- Return of the Swastika, Koenraad Elst, Voice of India
- The Saffron Swastika - The Notion of Hindu Fascism. (2001) ISBN 81-85990-69-7
- Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate Aditya Prakashan (1999) ISBN 81-86471-77-4
- Who is a Hindu?. 2001. ISBN 81-85990-74-3. 
- India's Only Communalist: an Introduction to the Work of Sita Ram Goel. Sharma, Arvind (2001). Hinduism and Secularism: After Ayodhya. (ed.) Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-333-79406-7.
- Linguistic Aspects of the Aryan Non-Invasion Theory, In Edwin Bryant and Laurie L. Patton (editors) (2005). Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. Routledge/Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1463-4.
- The Rushdie affair's legacy. Postscript to Daniel Pipes: The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah, and the West. Transaction Publishers, paperback (2003). 1990. ISBN 0-7658-0996-6.
- Gujarat After Godhra: Real Violence, Selective Outrage/edited by Ramesh N. Rao and Koenraad Elst. New Delhi, Har-Anand Pub., 2003, 248 p., ISBN 81-241-0917-6.
- The Ayodhya demolition: an evaluation", in Dasgupta, S., et al.: The Ayodhya Reference, q.v., p. 123-154.
- The Ayodhya debate in Pollet, G., ed.: Indian Epic Values. Râmâyana and Its Impact. Leuven: Peeters. 1995, q.v., p. 21-42. (adapted from a paper of the International Ramayana Conference and the October 1995 Annual South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin)
- The Ayodhya debate: focus on the "no temple" evidence, World Archaeological Congress, 1998
- India's Only Communalist: In Commemoration of Sita Ram Goel (edited by Koenraad Elst, 2005) ISBN 81-85990-78-6
- "The Rushdie Rules". Middle East Quarterly. June 1998.
- Foreword to: The Prolonged Partition and Its Pogroms: Testimonies on Violence against Hindus in East Bengal (1946–1964) by A. J. Kamra.
- "Banning Hindu Revaluation". Observer of Business and Politics. 1-12-1993.
- Andrew Bostom
- Michel Danino
- Swapan Dasgupta
- Oriana Fallaci
- David Frawley
- Girilal Jain
- G Anil Kumar
- N. S. Rajaram
- Arun Shourie
- The Satanic Verses
- Srđa Trifković
- Ibn Warraq
- Iswar Sharan
- Meera Nanda, Hindu Triumphalism and the Clash of Civilisations, Economic & Political Weekly, july 11, 2009 vol XLIV no 28.
- "The Problem of Christian Missionaries".
- Michael Witzel, 'Rama's Realm: Indocentric rewriting of early South Asian archaeology and history' in: Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public Routledge (2006), ISBN 0-415-30593-4, p. 205.
- "New Age Fascism: Review of an Exercise in Marxist Defamation".
- Elst, Koenraad. Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam.
- Sitam Ram Goel, How I became a Hindu. ch.9
- Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991) Footnote 64
- "So, Mr. Ghosh may be the Director of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, but as an independent scholar I am not impressed by such titles and positions." Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)
- Koenraad Elst. Who is a Hindu? Chapter Four
- Ayodhya, The Finale - Science versus Secularism the Excavations Debate. 2003. ISBN 81-85990-77-8.
- See M. R. Pirbhai Demons in Hindutva, writing a theology for Hindu nationalism, Modern Intellectual History (2008), 5 : 27-53 Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/S1479244307001527, and Dibyesh Anand Anxious Sexualities: Masculinity, Nationalism and Violence doi:10.1111/j.1467-856x.2007.00282.x BJPIR: 2007 Vol 9, 257–269 p.259.
- Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991) Chapter Fifteen
- "Let's Combat Communalism".
- Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam. 1992. ISBN 81-85990-01-8.
- "Hinduism, Environmentalism and the Nazi Bogey -- A preliminary reply to Ms. Meera Nanda".
- Koenraad Elst. Who is a Hindu? Chapter Nine
- Koenraad Elst. Who is a Hindu? Chapter Eleven
- Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam (1992) ISBN 81-85990-01-8
- "Was Veer Savarkar a Nazi?".
- Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate Aditya Prakashan (1999) ISBN 81-86471-77-4
- N.S. Rajaram, "This asterisk has no fine prints", Review in The Pioneer, 18 March 2007
- Edwin Bryant and Laurie L. Patton (editors) (2005). Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History.
- The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture By Edwin Bryant. Oxford University Press
- The Indo-Aryan Languages By Dhanesh Jain, George Cardona. Routledge
- "Book Review - Saffron Wave".
- Koenraad, Elst (2001 by Ayub Khan in Communalism Watch, 13 March 2003). Sangh Parivar's Apologist", a review of Decolonizing the Hindu Mind: Ideological development of Hindu Revivalism. Rupa, Delhi.
- Elst, Koenraad (June 1998). "The Rushdie Rules". Middle East Quarterly. pp. 31–40.
- "The religion of the Nazis".
- "The religion of the Nazis".
- De Zutter, Jan (2000). Heidenen voor het blok - Radicaal rechts en het moderne Heidendom" (Heathens in favour of the Blok - the radical Right and modern Heathenism) (in Dutch). Antwerpen / Baarn: Uitgeverij Houtekiet. p. 17. ISBN 90-5240-582-4.
- "Het VB en de islam" (in Dutch).
- "Wat is racisme?" (in Dutch).
- Elst, Koenraad (October–November 2001). "Het VB en de islam" (in Dutch). Nucleus.
- Elst, Koenraad (2001). "Vlaanderen, Kasjmir, Tsjetsjenië, Kosovo... Het ene separatisme is het andere niet (Flanders, Kashmir, Chechnya, Kosovo: one separatism does not equal another)". Antwerpen: Secessie.
- Lucas Catherine. Vuile Arabieren (in Dutch). p. 81. quoted at "Het VB en de islam".
- Nucleus on Dutch Wikipedia
- "Beeldenstorm in Afghanistan" (in Dutch). bharatvani.org. 9 March 2001.
- Elst, Koenraad (June 1998). "The Rushdie Rules". Middle East Quarterly.
- "Sanjay Subrahmanyam". The Times of India. August 22, 2006.
- "The Problem of Christian Missionaries". bharatvani.org. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
- "Elst interview".
- "Voice of Dharma review".
- "Let's combat communalism".
- Koenraad Elst Who is a Hindu? (2001)
- Hansen, Thomas. "The Saffron Wave". p. 262.
- Nandy, A. "Creating a Nationality". p. 5.
- Elst, Koenraad. "Let's Combat Communalism". Khan, Ayub (13 March 2003). Sangh Parivar's Apologist, a review of Decolonizing the Hindu Mind: Ideological development of Hindu Revivalism. Rupa, Delhi: Communalism Watch.
- "The eternal return of Nazi nonsense: Savitri Devi's last writings". Savitri Devi Mukherji: Le National-Socialisme et la Tradition Indienne, with contributions by Vittorio de Cecco, Claudio Mutti and Christian Bouchet, published in the series Cahiers de la Radicalité by Avatar-éditions, Paris/Dublin 2004.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Koenraad Elst|
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- Interview with India Currents Magazine, Feb. '96
- Pondering Pagans Hinduism Today
- Review of Koenraad Elst's Ayodhya and after
- Criticism and review of Elst's positions on 'revivalism'. "Koenraad Elst--Sangh Parivar's Apologist" by A. Khan (reply by Elst)