Identity Politics in India and Europe combines qualitative methods (20 interviews) with historical and philosophical analysis. The first part of the book discusses the history of perceptions between the Europe of Latin Christianity and the so-called Muslim world, starting from the 7th century onwards. The second part is devoted to a discussion on the emergence of modernity and how it changed the identity politics of earlier times. The third part explores the role that intellectual elites have to play. It comprises interviews of eminent scholars and thinkers in India such as Imtiaz Ahmad and Ashis Nandy. These make for an insightful read, especially as subtle ideological differences surface in their responses to a set of common questions.
You are an expert on Indian religion and you are also a public intellectual who has published prolifically on Hindu mythology and Hindu religion. Within the context of this project, we are less interested in the positive aspects of religion but in its potential for misuse in political contexts. In this connection, religion is perceived by some as a possible source of threat—either some specific religion or religion as such. What is your experience in this regard?
I see that religion is a powerful force to mobilise people and therefore it can be misused for political reasons. Sometimes, innocently, without realising what one is doing. The split between the religious and the non-religious is relatively recent. In Europe, it is perhaps about 300–400 ...