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Bigotry and Prejudice: the Depiction of Hinduism in the West
February 01, 2006
For the past few months, an obscure debate has been raging on about California school textbooks, which actually boils down to a vexed and important issue: Do Hindus have the right to be treated as equals with followers of other religions, or are Hindus and Hinduism to be deemed, ipso facto, inferior and objects of scorn?
The proverbial unbiased observer would, on considering the facts, suggest it is a fundamental right of a major world religion to be treated on par with other major world religions. This would stand to reason, as rational people have long since ceased to believe in the superiority of certain races, or languages, or cultures.
However, it turns out that in the case of Hinduism, ancient prejudices are still at work. It appears that religion is the one area in which it is perfectly acceptable to be an extreme bigot. Interestingly enough, Buddhism, which in many of its basic beliefs is almost identical to Hinduism, fares much better in the respect sweepstakes.
Hindus in India live in a fools' paradise: there is constant official propaganda that 'all religions are equal', and yet, paradoxically, that so-called 'minority religions' and their followers need to be given extra consideration, state largesse and patronage as they are fragile creatures under threat. In reality, they are powerful, rich and muscular State-sponsored religions.
Saudi Arabia's holy intolerance is the most obvious (yet a recent British Midlands airline edict is an example of how this is accepted in dhimmitude), but Europe and the US provide official patronage to their faiths too.
And this extends to the citizenry as well. There are cases of pictures of Hindu deities adorning toilet covers, shoes, underwear and so forth on a regular basis; film-maker Stanley Kubrick felt free to use one of the most sacred stanzas in the Bhagavad Gita as guttural background chanting for a sexual orgy in Eyes Wide Shut I never hear of Jesus or Abraham or Semitic texts being abused with such callous abandon.
In a recent incident in Malaysia, a Hindu soldier, an Everest mountaineer and national hero, was buried as a Muslim overruling the objections of his Hindu wife, who strenuously denied claims that he had converted to Islam. The court refused to even hear the wife's views, ruling that since she was not Muslim, she could not testify in a case involving Islam! The decimation of the Hindu populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh since 1947, including the recent massacre of small Hindu children in a temple in Balochistan, (see my column on that topic) are further instances of ill-treatment.
The paradox is that religious minorities are treated shamefully in white and/or Christist countries, and Arab and/or Muslim countries. This may stem from the beliefs of these faiths and ethnicities in explicit imperialism and world conquest. In India, the numerical minorities (Christians and Muslims) are treated as minor royalty and are the ones oppressing Hindus. Yet, all the propaganda would have you believe the exact opposite.
To put it bluntly, Hindus are despised and treated as second-class citizens outside India, and they are brainwashed into believing they deserve the second-class treatment they get in India, especially under the current dispensation, which has set all-time records for mindless pandering under the stewardship of a remarkably vigorous minister. The Indian government has as its official State religion something called 'secularism'. In plain English, that means endemic State hostility towards Hindus, but tenderness for Christians, Muslims and Marxists.
On the other hand, Christian belief has a special place in the West. Although that has typically been of the nature of primus inter pares, first among equals, it is worth noting that the God in whom we trust, according to US currency notes, is very much the Christian God. With evangelical millennialists rampant, the US now sees 'intelligent design' (belief masquerading as science) and diminishing separation of Church and State.
In the UK, the sovereign apparently is the protector of the Christian faith, or to be precise, the sub-sect that is prevalent in that nation. British rule in India was indistinguishable from fervent and chauvinistic Christian rule, as has been amply documented in Subhash Chakravarthy's incisive The Raj Syndrome.
Judaism, after centuries of oppression, pogroms, genocide, and hate-crimes against its adherents, has now reached a point (partly through their wealth and clout; partly through their willingness to seek legal redress) where nobody dares to denigrate Jews or their faith. The great crimes committed against them by Christians in Germany has also created a guilt complex which means that Christians are doubly careful about not offending Jewish sentiments.
Islam, paradoxically after 9/11, has now attained the same level of kid-glove treatment in the West. This is because of three reasons: one, Leftists in Western media have bullied all would-be dissenters into censoring themselves. Two, Muslim spokespersons in the West aggressively shame or threaten would-be accusers into politically-correct speech. Three, Muslims have deliberately emphasised the commonalities between these three West Asian faiths.
In this context of respectful treatment, it is amazing how differently Hinduism is treated in the West. In several countries, Hinduism is not even recognised as a religion. In determinedly secular France, Hinduism is not officially a religion, and is therefore treated on par with various bizarre cults that speak in tongues or handle rattlesnakes. I believe this is more or less the case in others like Spain and Italy, as well.
Hinduism, like Judaism, can reasonably induce guilt because Christian colonialism has directly caused the deaths of 30 million Indians, mostly Hindus (see Mike Davis' Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino and the Creation of the Third World), and the transfer of at least $10 trillion to Western coffers, in the process beggaring the nation. Yet, instead of tender treatment, Hindus get more oppression.
The only Hindu temple in Moscow was recently demolished, with the promise that alternate land would be provided for its reconstruction. But this promise has been reneged on: the temple is demolished and no land has been provided. And there was a broadside by one Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Christian Church, which, among other unparliamentary things, refers to Hindu deities as devils.
It may be noted that the Indian government's -- and Parliament's -- response to this outrage was: absolutely nothing. No diplomatic letter, no expression of concern, no apology extracted, despite Indo-Russian coziness. A group of British MPs, strangely enough, are the only ones to raise their voice. http://www.hinduforum.org/
Comments welcome at Rajeev.firstname.lastname@example.orgRajeev Srinivasan