US Presidential election and Hinduphobia

Ever since Tulsi Gabbard announced her intentions to run for the top US office, she has been subjected to some of the most vicious smear campaigns by the ultra left and Jihadi groups from both within and outside of the Democratic Party. Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from the 2nd district of Hawaii, was back in the Democratic Presidential Debate after missing the last one. Many, including Gabbard had blamed this omission to the ‘non-transparent’ qualifying rules of the Democratic Party.

On the debate stage last night, Gabbard specifically called out CNN and The New York Times, the two hosts of the debate, for their ‘smear campaign’ against her. She called it ‘despicable’. The allegation against Gabbard were so vile and personal that it made even New Gingrich, the former US House Speaker and a Republican, question them. He tweeted “Why is left so afraid of Tulsi Gabbard? I don’t understand the viciousness of the attack on her by NY Times and others.”

One of the main reasons Tulsi Gabbard gets attacked so viciously is because of her faith. Gabbard is a practicing Vaishnava Hindu and a follower of the Hare Krishna movement of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. She is also the first Hindu ever to be elected to the US Congress and the first Hindu to run for US President. A vegetarian, Gabbard took her oath of office on the Bhagwad Gita. She has released year after year her now famous Diwali greetings videos and she was instrumental in getting the stamps released by the US Postal Service in recognition of Diwali. She also has a good working relationship with Bharat’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact on one her visits to Delhi, she gifted the copy of the Gita she took her oath of office on to PM Modi.

In an interview with TOI’s Chidanand Rajghatta, Gabbard called such attacks on her “Hinduphobic”. While talking about her faith doesn’t bother her, she said, but what concerns her is that “it may discourage other Hindu Americans from running for office. It discourages them from being able to celebrate being who they are – a part of a beautiful unique fabric of diversity that is the United States of America.”

Hinduphobia in the society, media, and academia has more that 200-year old legacy in the West. It is, like any phobia according to Jeffry Long, a Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at the Elizabethtown College in the USA, “an intense and deeply rooted aversion – a fear and hatred – in this case, of Hindu and Hindu Dharma.”

This Hinduphobia, writes Long in his paper ‘Reflections on Hinduphobia: A Perspective from a Scholar-Practitioner’, “as a set of intellectual claims that portray Hindus and Hindu Dharma in a negative light.” One of the salient features of a Hinduphobic discourse, writes Long, is that any positive and progressive aspects of Hindu faith and society are either ignored or attributed to outside, non-Hindu influences.

During the last 200 years or so, foreigners and the Marxists have dominated the study of Bharat, its culture, traditions, texts, religions, etc. For example, the emergence of Indology as a field of study of ‘India’ can be traced back to neo-Protestant theology and their debates over scriptures as well as its anti-clerical prejudices. These prejudices over time, but consciously, were applied to Bharatiya texts where one can easily trace the antecedents of anti-Brahmanism.

These Indologists, according to Vishwa Adluri, a Professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, USA, held the belief that “Bharatiyas lacked access to the “true” meaning of their texts… for Bharatiyas never developed scientific critical thinking.” The University College Chapel, Oxford monument of Sir William Jones is a prime example of this attitude. The monument shows Sir Jones comfortably sitting on a chair and writing something on a desk while three Bharatiyas squatting in front of him. The inscription underneath the monument reads, “He formed the digest of Hindu and Mohammedan Laws.”

Similarly, Hinduphobia has deep roots in the centers/departments of South Asian Studies across the globe. In the US universities, the emergence of the departments of South Asian Studies as the powerhouse of academic activities related to Bharat is purely a result of the political and strategic exigencies of the US government during and after the WWII.

One of the main objectives of such Centers was intelligence gathering in the South Asian region. Many of the stalwarts of these South Asian centers, according to Nicholas Dirks, a South Asia expert and the Chancellor of the University of California, Berkley, were spies of the US working undercover in Bharat. The struggles of the Hindu-Americans in fighting the biases and inaccuracies in the California high school history textbooks is testimony to the Hinduphobia perpetuated by these South Asian centers.

In the later part of the 20th century, Marxists consciously hid and denied any reference to Bharat’s past achievements. They also picked up from where the colonialists and missionaries left in demonizing almost each and every facets of the Hindu society. Much of it is reflected in the Bharatiya textbooks as well as in the media coverage. The recent Hinduphobic social media post of a journalist of the National Public Radio (NPR) is a case in point. That journalist had to resign after intense pressure from the Hindu-American community.

While concerns about Hindu-Americans testing the political waters in the US are genuine, the real concern lies in their safety. The recent hate crimes data released in 2018 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows that the number of Hindu victims of hate crimes has tripled since 2015. Some, if not all, of this uptick can be attributed to Hinduphobia as well.

-by Avatans Kumar

(This article was published on The Times of India-Blogs on October 16, 2019 and has been reproduced here with minor changes – references to ‘India’ have been replaced with ‘Bharat’ and that to ‘Hinduism’ with ;Hindu Dharma’.)

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