Tag Archives: Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan’s Show: American Hindu Student Council Objects

Hindu students from all over the United States have expressed strong disappointment and opposition towards CNN’s Believer episode on Hinduism, which aired on March 5th and showed a heavily derogatory and out-of-context depiction of Hinduism and India. In the episode, contributor Reza Aslan visits the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, India to learn about Hinduism and ends up focusing on the stereotypes commonly associated with Hindus, while eating brain parts and covering a tiny sect that is supposedly cannibalistic. Aslan also declares the holy river the Ganges as, “one giant toilet” and the city of Varanasi as the city of the dead.

“Reza Aslan’s, Believer uses images of a cannibalistic Baba for the sake of shock value, risking conflation of extreme practices with mainstream Hinduism, much like what happened with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” remarked Parth Parihar, Hindu Students Council (HSC)’s General Secretary, who also wrote an article in the Huffington Post critiquing the Hinduism episode.  “Worse, by continuing to refer to the Aghoris as the unique sect trying to upend the caste system embedded within Hindu spirituality, the episode continues to spread the idea that caste discrimination is sanctioned by and inherent in Hindu practice – a blatant falsehood.”

Hinduism, a tradition over 5000 years old, has been the source of yoga, vegetarianism, the numeric system and many other achievements in science, arts, medicine and other fields and has inspired famous people such as Emerson, Thoreau, George Harrison and Julia Roberts, among many.

HSC also sat down with noted author and public intellectual Rajiv Malhotra to analyze various clips of the episode and show why such over the top, inaccurate and inflammatory depictions do nothing more than spread hatred and misconceptions about a tradition that many Americans are vaguely familiar with.

In today’s environment, where two Hindus were killed while other minorities have been subject to hate attacks and harassment, such episodes further exacerbate these situations and lead to bullying of high school and college students.  “As a practicing Hindu, it saddens me to see someone, who I regarded as a well-respected ally and scholar of all religions, depict the whole of Hinduism to a global audience as a small and radical sect,” added Nikita Shukla, the president of HSC at Tufts University and International Relations and Economics major.   “I firmly believe that we should be creating conversation that unites people of all faiths, rather than misleading through sensationalized sound bites.”

Raghavprasanna  Rajagopalan, a second year Computer Science and Biology student at Northeastern University, also agreed and added: “No matter what was intended by the Believer, the end result was that it did not have the desired effect, and as a result it will be harder for Hindus here to be proud of their religion because all of a sudden, the Aghori Baba is what will come to mind when you say ‘Hindu’.”

HSC joined 50 community organizations, temples and spiritual centers protesting the Believer episode at CNN locations in New York, Atlanta, Houston and other cities.  It will also be holding important conversations within universities as well as the larger community to ensure that mainstream Americans, media and our own youth develop a better understanding and appreciation for the Hindu tradition.

Reza Aslan’s “Believer”: Hindu Organizations Rally Against CNN

American Hindus Against Defamation led the resistance to CNN to stop further airing of “Believer with Reza Aslan” by joining hands with several other Hindu organizations for promoting xenophobia and Hinduphobia. The participating organizations include, Hindu Mandir Executive Council (HMEC), representing over 150 temples across North America, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) with chapters in over one hundred cities in the America, Samskrita Bharati an authoritative source for Samskrita (Sanskrit) education across the world, Ekal Vidyalaya, a US sponsor of over 55,000 one-teacher schools across India and Nepal and OFBJP, the American unit of the ruling BJP in India.

In several cities, the organizations that are signatories to this statement co-sponsored demonstrations against CNN and Mr. Aslan this weekend.  On Saturday, March 11, AHAD co-sponsored a protest by dozens of Hindu organizations in New York, to protest the show that denigrated Hindu dharma and depicted the holy city of Varanasi as a “city of death.”  Members  also participated in community led protests in Atlanta, Houston, and, Washington, DC.  Additional community protests are planned in Chicago and San Francisco. 

Utsav Chakrabarti, the Washington DC based coordinator of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) said, “We express complete support towards a multitude of Hindu organizations and Indian American groups that joined hands to protest CNN’s dangerous misrepresentation of the Hindu community.  We also thank the plethora of individuals and organizations that came together to lead the efforts to voice our concerns to CNN.”

Ajay Shah, convener of AHAD said, “Mr. Aslan has caused serious harm to the Hindu community and put the safety of Hindu children in schools across America in jeopardy.  Instead of propagating ignorance and hatred couched in sophistry, Mr. Aslan, a practicing Muslim, should meet with practitioners of mainstream Hindu faiths.  Learn about Hindu faith from our scholars, saints, priests and ascetics, and experience the practice of Hindu traditions from its practitioners and not merely from the libraries of elite institutions or known Hindu haters.” He added that “CNN has failed to hold itself to high standards.  Despite being alerted about the offensive content, CNN proceeded to air the show without consultation with practicing Hindu experts.”  

Mr. Shah stated that, the Hindu organizations demand the following:

  1. An on-air apology from CNN and Mr. Aslan for offending a billion strong Hindu community
  2. No further airing of the offending episode
  3. A promise to consult practicing Hindu scholars nominated by Hindu Mandir Executive Council (HMEC), before programs relating to the Hindus are aired.

 

About American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)

American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) is the first and the most prominent Hindu organization in USA.  A project of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), AHAD has been actively monitoring media and products to ensure accurate representation of Hindu dharma, culture, images and icons.

For further information, please contact:

Ajay Shah

Convener, American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD)

http://www.hindunet.org/ahad

ajay@hindunet.org  

Phone: (858) 866-9661

About World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)

World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) is the most prominent organization of Hindus in America.  Founded in 1970, it has branches across the country.