“In me is the essence of the Gita”: Muslim engagements with Hindu dharma in an age of Hindu Nationalism

ACGIS Guest Lecture with Anand Vivek Taneja

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 12:00 PM to 1:15 PM EDT
Horizon Hall, 3rd Floor Conference Room #3225

“In me is the essence of the Gita”: Muslim engagements with Hindu dharma in an age of Hindu Nationalism

In this talk I revisit a few moments of Indian Muslim engagement with Hindu scripture, mythology, and ethics that I encountered during fieldwork in India between 2018 and 2020. I found that many Muslims were deeply engaged with Hinduism, not only because they were deeply familiar with Hindu scripture and mythology, but because they felt the deep need to engage in a conversation with Hindu ethics, because this was a conversation necessary for shared Indian public life. In the face of the rapid rise to power of a Hindu nationalist government, there is a growing understanding among Indian Muslims that it is not the impartial arbitration of a supposedly “secular” state that acts as a safeguard for minority communities in India. Rather, it is the dharma (in the sense of ethics) that communities chose to act by that determines the nature of Indian society and its plural nature. As the majority community, the dharma that Hindus chose to adopt, the ethical choices they make as a collective, is understood as crucial to the future of the country, and to Muslim belonging in it. Many Muslims, from Deobandi scholars to Bollywood film-makers, are thus urgently engaged in conversations with and about Hindu dharma.

Anand Vivek Taneja is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi (Stanford University Press, 2017). He is currently writing a book on Indian Muslim poetry, ethics, and politics in an age of Hindu nationalism.

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