Right-wing extremism and authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies are a global phenomenon, and not something unique to Europe and the United States. Right-wing extremism has different characteristics in different parts of the world, and is adapted to the context in which it emerges. In Asia, India and China are two key examples of countries that have recently seen developments with authoritarian and right-wing extremist characteristics. The developments in these countries also tend to spread to other countries in the region.
India is considered the world’s largest democracy. However, the country is currently also moving in an increasingly anti-democratic and authoritarian direction. In recent decades, Hindu nationalism has gained greater support in the country. Breivik referred to India’s Hindu nationalist movement as an ally in his manifesto. The terrorist expressed the importance of having right-wing extremist and Islamophobic movements becoming allies and learning from each other.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party, is closely linked to Hindu nationalist ideology. Hindu nationalists want Hinduism to carry more weight in Indian society. They are supporters of the Hindutva ideology, which is based on the principle that Hinduism is both a religion and a people. This means that Hindutva conflates religious and national identity. This definition of Hindus also includes Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, as their religions originated in the Indian subcontinent.
Muslims and Christians, on the other hand, are excluded from this community as their religions originated outside of India. According to Hindu nationalist ideology, they will never be able to see India as their sacred homeland. Muslims and Christians are strangers who are perceived to threaten the Indian community identity. As a result, they are subjected to violence and abuse, with the Muslim minority singled out as the main enemy. Persons who are accused of eating beef, multi-religious couples, and missionaries are falling victim to hate crimes. So-called mob attacks where angry crowds attack people are not uncommon in
Amnesty International recorded 72 mob attacks in the first half of 2019, 37 of which were directed towards Muslims. According to the non-denominational international Christian mission Open Doors, there are on average two violent attacks against Christians every day in India.
In 2019, two amendments of the law were passed that have attracted global attention:
(1) Kashmir’s special status in the Indian Constitution that gave people in Kashmir a large degree of autonomy and special rights in Kashmir was repealed. A curfew was subsequently imposed and the mobile and internet networks were shut down in Kashmir. There has been conflict for decades over who should control this mountainous area that lies between India and Pakistan. Kashmir has a Muslim majority, and the abolition of its special status could open up to India annexing the area without involving key local stakeholders.
(2) Changes to the Indian Citizenship Act will make it easier to obtain Indian citizenship for persecuted groups from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who arrived in India before 2015. This, however, does not apply to Muslims. The law has come under severe criticism for systematic discrimination against non-Hindus.
In addition, anti-conversion laws have been introduced in several places in the country. Several Muslim place names such as Allahabad have been replaced and school books in some states have been revised.
In the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conspiracy theory “corona jihad” abounded in social media, which is about an alleged Muslim plan to spread Covid-19 among the Hindu majority, which stems from an outbreak in a Muslim congregation involving local and foreign participants. There were false rumours that Muslim vegetable and fruit sellers were licking their produce to spread infection. “Corona jihad” is a paraphrasing of “love jihad”; a conspiracy theory alleging that young Muslim men are seducing young Hindu women to make them convert.
China has a number of different ethnic and religious groups. The Han Chinese constitute a majority in all provinces and autonomous regions except Xinjiang and Tibet. Xinjiang is the only Chinese province with a Muslim majority. The Uighurs, a minority group of Turkish descent, make up the largest Muslim group. They have previously enjoyed periods of self-government, and many want independence and autonomy in what they refer to as East Turkestan.
Chinese authorities have taken extensive measures in Xinjiang to control the Uighur population and other minorities with the ultimate goal of achieving “ethnic unity”. The religious and cultural expressions of Uighurs and other minorities are suppressed and up to 1 million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities are held in internment camps without being charged or convicted. A person can be placed in the camps for “suspicious behaviour.”
Examples of justifications for detention according to Amnesty International and other sources:
- long beard
- contact with family or acquaintances abroad
- has studied or worked in a Muslim country
- had too many children
- praying after meals
Former inmates tell of political and cultural brainwashing, torture and other abuse. Leaked documents reveal that officials are encouraged to show “no mercy.” The rest of the population in the area is subjected to systematic mass surveillance.
According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), at least 80,000 Uighurs are involved in forced labour in factories all over China for some of the world’s best-known brands, in addition to being subjected to political “re-education” which means renouncing Islam and declaring allegiance to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Hundreds of thousands of minority women have undergone forced sterilizations, abortions and IUD insertions. Between 10,000–15,000 mosques and shrines in the region were completely or partially demolished in the period 2016–2019.
Several scholars and human rights organizations believe developments in China now meet the criteria for genocide (Section 101 of the Norwegian Penal Code).
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