Under the Guise of Being ‘Of Our Community,’ Hindus for Human Rights is Painting Targets On All of Our Backs

  • Its leadership believes that a proud Hindu is dangerous and, conversely, an ashamed, self-hating Hindu is harmless and, therefore, ideal.

Recently, a California Civil Rights Division report found that 23% of religion-based hate incidents reported through the CA vs. Hate hotline were against Hindus, the second most in the data set. We do not yet have additional information on what the CRD found or the details of these alleged incidents, and we must carefully examine the data and understand it. 

In the wake of the eye-opening finding, Hindus for Human Rights hosted a purportedly open discussion on Hinduphobia and whether such a phenomenon exists. 

For those who just come late to the discussion, Hinduphobia is defined, per the working definition adopted by the Understanding Hinduphobia conference, as: “A set of of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviors towards Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred.” 

Let’s break it down based on that definition. Can Hinduphobia exist, does it exist in the world, and does it exist in the United States?

Can Hinduphobia exist in the world? Yes.

Individuals, groups, and institutions can absolutely hold “antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviors” towards our religion and its adherents, just as with any religion or its adherents. While criticism of Hinduism or Hindus is not necessarily Hinduphobic, just as necessarily antipathy can cross the line into antagonism, derogation, and destruction; just as it can against any other religious tradition.

Does Hinduphobia exist in the world? Yes.

Again, the answer to this is extremely obvious. Hindus used to constitute 14-15% of the population of the territories now part of Pakistan; currently, they comprise less than 2%. Hindus used to constitute 25% of the territories now part of Bangladesh; in 1989, they comprised 10%; currently, they comprise 8%. Hindus were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir river valley in 1990, where they now constitute, again, approximately 2-4% of the population. And Hindus have gone from numbers in the hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan in the 1970s to less than 50 today. These damning demographic statistics are corroborated by the sad plight of minority Hindus in the various parts of the Indian subcontinent; there are numerous stories of Hindus losing their property, their minor children (especially daughters), their temples, and their lives to ongoing harassment. There are, unequivocally, people in this world who hate Hindus and their religion.

Does Hinduphobia exist in the U.S.? Yes.

Perhaps it’s stating the obvious, but the situation in the US is nowhere at all as dire as that in the Indian subcontinent. For the most part, Hindus are free to thrive and practice our traditions within the messy context of a multicultural society with competing interests. But any Hindu who has grown up in the U.S. – including Hindus who work at HFHR, no doubt – has stories to tell about how Hinduism was taught or not taught in school, how persistent the focus was on negative aspects of the tradition when it was covered, how they experienced periodic slurs, and how the strong vitriol associated with the most proselytizing strains of Evangelism was brought to bear on real live “devil worshippers”. In recent years we have seen a worrying array of attacks on Hindus and Hindu places of worship.

Given the above, the clear evidence that Hinduphobia exists in the world, organizations like Hindus for Human Rights might be expected to address it and not question its existence. After all, the ‘Hindu’ in their name implies at least some concern for that tradition, and the ‘Human Rights’ of Hindus might be impacted by the existence of Hinduphobia. Sadly, a review of their website reveals minimal interest in — in fact, active hostility towards — the idea of Hinduphobia. 

Here are some illustrative examples:

‘Hinduphobia’ – How the language of social justice works to serve Hindu nationalism in the US diaspora

How ‘Hinduphobia’ is being weaponised in the US

“I feel a dissonance between Diwali celebrations and Gazan children’s pleas for a chance to survive”

This is not cherry-picking. Reviewing their last 25+ Op-Eds, there are four alleging that Hinduphobia is fake. 

Most of the rest are either anti-Hindutva generally or anti-Modi specifically. Notably, there is not a single article related to problems faced by Hindus other than Dalits in either the U.S. or in the rest of the world — and that too only if at the hands of other Hindus.  

Most Americans outside of specific geographic areas have only occasional contact with Hindus and Hinduism and do not have any special reason to like or dislike Hindus beyond generic pluralistic or suspicious tendencies. 

See Also

Most Hindu organizations in this context would try to present the best possible face of their traditions, contextualize potential negativity, and work towards improving the way their adherents are perceived. 

Hindus for Human Rights does just the opposite in presenting as negative a picture of Hinduism as is possible. 

From fighting for legislation that would permanently place Hindus under suspicion of being an unusually bigoted and discriminatory class of people, to fighting against even symbolic legislation that seeks to recognize the positive aspects of Hindu contributions to the U.S. and condemn discrimination against Hindus, Hindus for Human Rights consistently takes symbolic and impactful positions against both Hindus and Hinduism and its adherents. 

Hindus for Human Rights behaves in this way for what seems like one simple, overarching reason: its leadership believes that a proud Hindu is dangerous and, conversely, an ashamed, self-hating Hindu is harmless and, therefore, ideal. 

Thus, Hindus for Human Rights focuses its energy on proving that Hindus have nothing to be proud of, other than docility; that Hindus were not and are not mistreated anywhere; and ultimately, if Hindus were mistreated, they deserved it. All of this is to say that Hindus for Human Rights is one of the most Hinduphobic organizations operating in the U.S. 

Under the guise of being “of our community” and under the guise of caring about minorities in India, Hindus for Human Rights is painting targets on all of our backs. No one should be under the delusion that they speak for us or have our interests in mind.

(Top image, courtesy of eitherview.com.)

Raman Khanna, MD is an associate professor of clinical medicine, physician, and informaticist at the University of California, San Francisco. Since majoring in religion in college he maintains an avid interest in religion and history. He is a member of the Hindu American Foundation’s National Leadership Council, where he helps with special projects and data analysis.

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