New CNN show with Muslim host presents Varanasi as ‘City of the Dead’

You thought Varanasi was a symbol of Bharat’s ancient civilization, something cherished by the whole world like we Hindus cherish the symbols of other great civilizations like Great Wall of China, Pyramids of Egypt, cities of Europe etc.?

Well, Varanasi (Benares/Kashi) is nothing but ‘one large crematorium’ and ‘city of the dead’ as per the trailer for a new CNN show ‘Believers’ hosted by Reza Aslan which goes live this Sunday.

The trailer says that “Varanasi has 87 ghats, each of which burns up to 100 bodies a day.”, and adds that “ghats mean pyre.” The tragedy is that many educated Hindus (even in Bharat) would digest these gross falsehoods, feeling a twinge of guilt and self-loathing while watching shows like ‘Believers’. In reality, most of the ghats in Varanasi are meant for bathing and puja, while only Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats are dedicated to cremation. Ghats are riverfront steps, not pyres.

Yes, pollution is a real concern in Varanasi, as it is in most of Bharat. But what sort of mind puts ‘death and pollution’ as the defining feature of a city that welcomes millions every year, including non-Hindus who come there seeking spiritual knowledge?

Even if we set aside distortion of facts like CNN has done, would any show on Vatican start off with talking about pedophilia and the sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Catholic church for over a decade now, or show Mecca by highlighting how the holy Muslim land still follows medieval sharia justice & prohibits practice of any religion other than Islam?

Such monumental ignorance & denigration of Hindu Dharma in Western media, both left-liberal and right-wing outlets, is nothing new for the discerning Hindu. When Hinduphobic scholars like Wendy Doniger dominate academic Hindu studies with their Freudian psycho-sexual approach, popular culture celebrates films like ‘Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom‘ which showed Amrish Puri as a murderous Hindu priest of a Kali-worshipping cult, and Sri Ganesha figures on underwear being sold on Amazon, the ‘Believers’ show doesn’t come as a surprise. This analysis exposes the acute Hinduphobia problem that major international news outlets suffer from.

Incidentally, Reza Aslan has been termed an Islamist apologist even by liberal Muslims, and he has actually argued that there is no need to fight jihadis like Al-Qaeda, rather the world should engage “moderate Islamic” political forces.

Here is a critical review of this upcoming show and why it fails to achieve its stated goal of “showing the shared similarities at the heart of the world’s various religions.” It seems that after the opening episode on ‘Hinduism’, Reza Aslan will cover religious communities involved with ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israel, voodoo in Haiti, an apocalyptic doomsday cult in Hawaii, Santa Muerte in Mexico and Scientology in the States. Notice how the 6-part series clubs Hindu Dharma with outlandish cults and neatly sidesteps the ‘mainstream’ Abrahamic religions i.e Islam and Christianity.

The good thing is that Hindus are not taking such stereotyping and distortion lying down anymore. The trailer has set off a lively debate on Facebook, with many Hindus and even Westerners rebutting the negative & false portrayal of Varanasi –

But there were some who found in the video a good opportunity to indulge in some Hindu-bashing, or who thought the video provided a good introduction to Hindu Dharma, despite what the Hindus themselves had to say about it in the comments section!

Just in case you were wondering who Ken Miller, who believes that “Hinduism is a dark and oppressive faith” is – this is what his FB profile says –

Ken Miller claims that he was in Bharat a few days back, and he intends to return to Bharat despite hating the culture and religion of the majority people of this country. His likely goal – ‘to harvest souls in the name of Christ’.

So, dear urban secular Hindu, the next time you lecture the practicing Hindus of this country on ‘tolerance’, do let us know your views on Ken Miller and other intolerant, hate-mongering Abrahamics as well – otherwise we want no part of the one-sided tolerance you preach day in and out.


Did you like this article? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.