When Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day’s Senate session last month, his prayer was disrupted by some anti-abortion activists who shouted “No Lord but Jesus Christ“, “There’s only one true God,” and ”this is an abomination”. To understand the hatred of the hecklers, Rajiv Malhotra writes that one should understand that there is a systematic creation and distribution of misinformation by an army of “scholars”.
The denigration of Hinduism influences the way Americans relate to Indians. Andrew Rotter, an American historian, in his book on the US foreign policy’s tilt against India and towards Pakistan during the Nehru era, cites declassified documents revealing US presidents’ and diplomats’ suspicions of Hinduism. They regarded “Hindu India” as lacking morality and integrity, and its “grotesque images” reminded them of previous pagan faiths conquered by Christians, such as Native Americans. American ideas about India are intertwined with stereotypes about Hinduism.
There are domestic implications concerning the diaspora as well. The great American meritocracy has enabled us to succeed as individuals, and many Indians see American Jews as a role model. But it took the Jews over half a century of organized lobbying and litigation by organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, to establish their religious identity in public life. The lesson Jews had learnt in the European Holocaust was that their individual success could easily be used against them if their civilizational identity was defamed. Indians also faced hate crimes in New Jersey when the Dotbusters targeted Hindus. Recent rants by Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs generate xenophobia against Indians for “stealing” jobs from “real” (i.e. white Judeo-Christian) Americans.
As Indian-Americans stand out for their individual success, while US economic standards deteriorate, we may one day regret having neglected the projection of a positive civilizational image. Unlike many other ethnic and religious groups, we have not adequately engaged US universities, schools, media and think-tanks deeper than the pop culture layer of cuisine, Bollywood and fashions. On the contrary, many Indian writers have fed the “caste, cows, curry” images of India. [Was the US Senate Attack on Hinduism an isolated Instance?]
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