Former Iraq War Cheerleader Attacks Me For Criticizing Hindu Nationalism

Michael Rubin accuses me of “foreign interference” for exposing RSS-BJP’s foreign interference in US

Pieter Friedrich
11 min readMay 2, 2022

In August 2020, the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP) USA — the American support group for India’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP — registered as a foreign agent in the US. They’d been in operation for nearly 30 years, since 1992, but, strangely, without any of the oversight from the US government that comes from being transparently labeled as working on behalf of a foreign entity. Why did that change?

In February 2020, during our US Presidential Elections, BJP National General Secretary BL Santhosh issued an open threat of foreign interference. Targeting then presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, who had criticized India’s BJP government for its role in an anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi that same month, Santhosh told him “you are compelling us” to “play a role in Presidential elections.” What role could that be?

Notably, Santhosh’s public life began in 1993 as a pracharak (full-time worker) for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary, the parent organization of the BJP.

In August 2019, I published an 18,000 word cover article for India’s Caravan magazine laying out, in excruciating detail, how Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard — who was then running for president — got her start in US Congress thanks to apparently coordinated campaign financing provided by top leaders in US affiliates of the RSS, the OFBJP, and other linked entities. I traced how, over many years, Gabbard had keynoted events hosted by the RSS in India, by its international wing, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), and by the OFBJP itself. In fact, she had even keynoted OFBJP banquets, held to celebrate Modi’s election in 2014, at which she wore a BJP scarf while praising her audience — many of them donors to her congressional campaign — for their hard work ensuring a BJP victory in India.

At one of the events, examination of Gabbard’s campaign financing suggests that she may have even used campaign funds to help pay for it. Did a US Congresswoman use campaign funds to pay for a banquet — hosted by a soon-to-be registered Foreign Agent — celebrating election of a Hindu nationalist political party in India? A banquet that was held at the same time as a surge of funds came back to her campaign from people who attended it?

A banquet — held at a time when that Congresswoman was running for re-election to a pivotal second term — where the then head of the OFBJP, a foreign politician, publicly assured her that her re-election was a “foregone conclusion”?

In that context, because of my journalism about Gabbard and other American political figures with similar inadvisable and unsavory associations with RSS-BJP entities both in America and abroad, I have today been subjected to yet another smear campaign by war-mongering American Enterprise Institute fellow Michael Rubin.

Rubin expresses his concern about activities which may “open the door for greater foreign interference” in the US. Is he concerned such “foreign interference” may come from a member of US Congress — and presidential candidate-to-be — hobnobbing with an outfit that came to be registered as an officer Foreign Agent in America? No, he’s concerned that “foreign interference” may result from my journalism exposing such activities.

The last time Rubin attacked me was in December 2021. At the time, I pointed out that he has a long, colorful history of associating with radical Islamophobic organizations, being accused of being on the “leash” of “whoever pays the most,” and, most entertainingly, being accused of “mind-boggling stupidity.” Why did I call him a war-monger? Based on his track record of, in the words of Mother Jones magazine, being “one of the neocons who led the the US to war with Iraq through misinformation and bogus intelligence.” Now, however, Rubin appears to be moving on from agitating for war in Iraq to smearing American journalists like myself who are critical of the Hindu nationalist movement.

The crux of Rubin’s attack on me is that I have been “smearing Indian-American politicians” — of whom he names seven — who are Hindus.


Well, he doesn’t offer any rationale. Rubin presents no apparent motivation for my journalism. In his paradigm, I am writing and speaking about these political figures for no logical reason other than irrational “religious bigotry.” Correctly noting that I have written about both Republicans and Democrats, he states, “What sets Friedrich’s campaign apart is that ethnicity and religion rather than political position are the common link.”

Conspicuously absent from Rubin’s article, however, is any mention of the RSS-BJP — or the HSS, OFBJP, etc. These are all names of Hindu nationalist outfits which I incessantly and invariably raise in my writings and speeches.

Yet Rubin is apparently afraid to name any actual names when it comes to these groups. He mentions several of the political figures I have exposed, but conveniently — and, it would seem, quite intentionally — leaves out any mention of why I am exposing them. If, after all, my criticism of them were rooted in something as reprehensible as attacking them for their ethnicity or religion, wouldn’t the attacks be easily brushed off? What is it about my journalism which has been so effective that Rubin feels compelled to respond?

Rubin can’t mention RSS-BJP because the moment he grapples with the facts of my journalism, his argument against me — his attack on me — falls apart.

He mentions, for instance, Sonal Shah. He implies that my coverage of Shah is “based not on substance but instead on multiple degrees of separation and insinuation.” He suggests that I am an “anti-Hindu bigot” who believes that “two figures present at a common event where hundreds of others were also present” constitutes “definitive proof of intricate links and cooperation.” Notably, he doesn’t bother linking to any of my writings about Shah so that a concerned reader of his article, interested to see my supposed “bigotry” in action, might actually view it, be repulsed by it, and become fully convinced that I’m a journalist deserving of the condemnation Rubin calls for.

Rubin doesn’t want his reader to know, for instance, that my “definitive proof” of Shah’s links to the web of Hindu nationalist networks includes that she’s the daughter — how’s that for “multiple degrees of separation” — of a man who has spent at least 20 years leading (as, variously, president and vice-president) the OFBJP. A man who hosted current BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their US home in the 1990s. A man who traveled to India in 2014 to campaign for the BJP’s election in person.

Nor does Rubin want to deal with the reality that the RSS-BJP are the leading organizations in a family of Hindu nationalist groups known as the “Sangh Parivar.”

The Sangh includes the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), typically considered the “religious wing” of the RSS paramilitary, which was declared by the CIA in 2018 as a “religious militant” outfit. Just as the RSS has a US wing in the HSS-USA and the BJP has a US wing in the OFJBP-USA, the VHP has a US wing in the VHP-America. And not only is Sonal Shah the daughter of a long-time OFBJP leader, but she herself actually spent years as a leader in the VHPA.

Acknowledging that is a much different accusation than saying, for instance, that Shah was one of the people “present at a common event where hundreds of others were also present.” But Rubin apparently doesn’t want to directly deal with the hard facts that I invoke.

Similarly, Rubin names Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi as another politician whom I’ve criticized. Indeed, I have. But Rubin doesn’t want to grapple with the host of facts I’ve documented concerning Krishnamoorthi’s heavy funding by leaders in RSS-BJP affiliates in the US or his repeated presence at American Hindu nationalist events. For instance, he — oddly — has no interest in dealing with how I’ve criticized Krishnamoorthi for keynoting an HSS-hosted celebration of the founding of the RSS.

Nor does Rubin mention that my criticism of Krishnamoorthi speaking at said HSS event particularly focuses on how the event featured a garlanded picture of MS Golwalkar, the longest-serving and most influential leader of the RSS who also happens to be — as the paramilitary’s ideological North Star — one of the reasons that I frequently refer to the RSS as a Nazi-inspired paramilitary.

I’ve extensively covered this in other articles, so suffice it to say here that Golwalkar, in 1939, applauded Nazi Germany for “purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews” and described it as a good model for the RSS to adopt towards minorities in India. The minorities whom Golwalkar particularly hated and wanted to eliminate from the country were both Christians and Muslims. The RSS today — in coordination with the BJP, the VHP, and other Sangh entities — is working on doing exactly that.

The Hindu nationalist movement in India is working so hard to eliminate Indian minorities, in fact, that experts in America are warning the situation in India is one of impending genocide.

Most recently, there was Dr. Ellen Kennedy of World Without Genocide. “I speak to you as a Jew,” said Dr. Kennedy in late April 2022. “We must pay attention to what is happening to Muslims in India today because it is beginning to echo what happened to Europe’s Jews 80 years ago.” She concluded, “Violence against Muslims in India has escalated to the point that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ranks India second in the world in this year’s Early Warning statistical risk assessment.”

This impending genocide, which is beginning to echo the outset of the Holocaust, is sponsored by the RSS-BJP.

Meanwhile, the US support base for the RSS-BJP happens to have a handful — thank God, only a handful — of political figures with a past (or even present) of operating within its orbit. What’s the common link between them all? Frequent participation in HSS, VHPA, and/or OFBJP events (sometimes even as leaders or organizers for those groups), heavy and apparently coordinated campaign financing from the small but deep-pocketed network of leaders in those groups, and a track record of pushing policies which either directly support the Hindu nationalist agenda in India, offer apologetics for it, or seek to preempt any criticism of it.

There are — again, thank God — not many of these political figures at present.

Rubin names only seven that I’ve exposed: former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Saratoga City Councillor and congressional candidate Rishi Kumar, Ohio State Senator Niraj Antani, Michigan State Representative Padma Kuppa, Department of Homeland Security Advisor Sonal Shah, and former Ambassador Atul Keshap.

There are a few others. Rubin doesn’t name them, so I will. There is also congressional candidate Ritesh Tandon (Republican), congressional candidate Manga Anantatmula (Republican), and failed congressional candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni (Democrat).

That makes for ten political figures in total. Let’s put that number in context.

In 2018, there were reportedly almost 100 Indian-Americans running for election across the country. At present, there are — according to Indian-American Impact’s current list — approximately 200 or so elected officials of Indian origin at the city, county, state, and federal level. Most of these appear to be Hindu, as one would expect considering that Hindus are nearly 80 percent of India’s population and approximately 50 percent of the Indian-American population.

Of these perhaps 200 elected officials, I’ve exposed ten individuals — several of whom, as failed candidates, never even made it to that list of 200. That’s less than five percent. It’s confirmation, indeed, of my frequent argument that Hindu nationalism is not Hinduism and that Hindu nationalist adherents (and/or fellow travelers) in the US constitute a tiny segment of the broader Hindu-American population — though, nevertheless, one of the most vocal and organized segments.

Nonetheless, Rubin projects my journalism regarding the indisputable ties of these handful of candidates and elected officials to the RSS-BJP as a baseless attack on “a host” of politicians “across the political spectrum” who “face slander that they harbor extremist links rooted in dual loyalty.” In his interpretation, criticizing a few people — who, let it not go unsaid, are seeking political power — for their ties to a fascist, Hindu nationalist movement that is, among many other things, guilty of defaming the true beauty of the Hindu religion, constitutes “manufactured controversy” which “throw[s] Hindus under the bus.”

In his conclusion, Rubin calls for Catholics and Jews to unite against bigotry.

Here is the one place where I whole-heartedly agree with Rubin. He’s right. Catholics and Jews should unite against bigotry — the bigotry of the RSS-BJP.

In the case of Catholics, for instance, I would refer them to my recent booklet, “India at a Crossroads: Hindu Nationalist Efforts to Eradicate Christianity.” It’s endorsed by Dr. John Dayal, the former President of the All India Catholic Union, who warns that Indian Christians “face an existential threat from a source few people in the world are aware of: fundamentalist and militant Hindu elements banded together in an organization rooted in Nazi philosophy and sworn to end Abrahamic religions in India.”

I thank Dr. Dayal for also adding, “Friedrich’s work in cautioning the West against this threat is pioneering and remarkable.”

Islam and Christianity are two of the world’s largest Abrahamic religions, but Judaism is the oldest. Remember RSS chief MS Golwalkar, who praised the Nazis for laying the groundwork for the Holocaust and whose picture Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi stood before at an event celebrating the RSS’s founding? Golwalkar also wrote: “The first Semitic religion was Judaism, an intolerant faith.”

Let us hope and pray that Catholics and Jews unite together with Muslims, and other Christians, and Sikhs, and the Dalit and Ambedkarite communities, and Buddhists, and atheists, and agnostics, and Hindus, and on and on and on to stand together against the fascism of the RSS-BJP, its genocidal goals, and its apologists in the US and elsewhere.

In conclusion, speaking directly to Mr. Rubin, I would note that his interpretation of my work is one which, it would seem, only the deliberately disingenuous would arrive at.

He cannot, it seems, comprehend that I love India and have sincere concern for an India dominated by a fascist movement.

Nor can he comprehend that, as a Christian, I am concerned about the persecution facing my own Christian family in India.

Nor can he comprehend that, as a Christian, I am called to love and speak up for all the oppressed, regardless of their religious affiliation, and am thus deeply troubled by the persecution facing Indian Muslims and other minority communities in the country.

Nor can he comprehend that, as an American, I am concerned by foreign interference in my own country’s political system — especially when it springs from a religious nationalist movement with a fascist foundation. Perhaps Rubin is not the sort of person who would have opposed Nazi Germany’s attempts to establish a support base in America, but by God’s grace I certainly wish that I could be such a person.

Nor can he comprehend that, as an American, I truly believe in the beauty of our US Constitution and its intent to protect the rights and liberties of our citizens and that — unlike those war-mongers who advocated invading and occupying a foreign country to topple their government and impose “democracy” — I believe the best way to be a shining city on a hill is to lead by example. To live out the ideals of human rights and civil liberties that every democracy ought to cherish. Sometimes, that begins with opposing fascism; perhaps always, that begins with opposing dictatorship.

India today has become a de facto fascist dictatorship.

Every human being has a duty, out of love and concern for the present and future well-being of Indians, to stand up and speak out against that. And, in America, that sometimes must include standing up and speaking out against people who are not only apologists for but also supporters of that burgeoning tragedy of rising — no, risen — fascist dictatorship in India.



Pieter Friedrich

Friedrich is a freelance journalist and analyst of South Asian affairs. Learn more about him at