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Parliament of the World’s Religions Rejects Hindu Celebration of Swami Vivekananda: Hindu Trustees Resign

Philadelphia, PA (September 23, 2013) -- Rejecting a request from a coalition of over three hundred North American Hindu spiritual leaders, organizations, community leaders, and lay people, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) refused yesterday to join Hindus in Chicago to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The CPWR originally planned on being a co-sponsor of the celebration set for September 28, 2013, but then withdrew suddenly after receiving a complaint from an online based anti-Hindu group. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) coordinated a letter requesting the CPWR to change course as local organizers worked towards reaching a compromise with CPWR, but the Parliament rejected the final requests late last night, prompting the only two Hindu members of the Parliament Board of Trustees to resign in protest today.
 
"At HAF, we are saddened that the Parliament, created in the very name of Swami Vivekananda, turned its back on the Hindu community and drew its own fault lines defining politics and religion,” said Suhag Shukla, HAF’s Executive Director. “The CPWR has decided to define political organizations arbitrarily, and must now take a hard look at every organization it has partnered with and that its trustees are associated with or represent.”
 
Shukla suggested that the CPWR immediately examine the ties Shaik Ubaid--the Muslim activist who claimed credit for forcing the Parliament to dissociate from the Chicago Hindu community in several Muslim media outlets-- maintains within the Parliament leadership. Ubaid works closely with the CPWR Chairman of the Board, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, having co-founded a number of organizations and worked together in others.
 
In a major setback to the Parliament Board of Trustees, the only two Hindu trustees of the Parliament, Professor Anant Rambachan, Chair of the Department of Religion at St. Olaf’s College, and Ms. Anju Bhargava, Founder of Hindu American Seva Charities, resigned immediately after CPWR confirmed its unilateral decision to disengage from the community celebration.
 
"The decision to withdraw, made without consulting either one of us, has caused hurt and great disappointment across the Hindu world and especially here in the United States,” wrote Rambachan and Bhargava, in a letter released earlier today. “In spite of claiming neutrality, the Board chose to be influenced in its decision by giving credibility to complainants against its participation in the event and by showing no interest in considering or deliberating on the Hindu responses received.”
 
But while the CPWR boasted of a unanimous approval of its decision to refuse reversal, the resigning trustees also wrote, “We wish to clarify also that we did not participate in the Board meeting on September 24, 2013 when the Board approved its recently released resolution. For us, the heart of the matter is the Board’s unwillingness to consider any form of participation.”
 
"To completely ignore issues of fairness, transparency, and mutual respect raised by the Hindu community at large and the condescending tone of the announcement should call into question the Parliament’s ability to be a global leader in the interfaith movement,” said Mr. Pawan Deshpande, a member of HAF’s Executive Council. "Nonetheless, the silver lining in all of this is that it has brought together so many Hindus, across a broad spectrum of religious, cultural, and political backgrounds, to voice our collective concern.”