Summary of Changes
The Hindu American Foundation needs the support of every one of its members at this critical time. The efforts of Hindus in California to improve 6th grade textbooks so that these books actually reflect their beliefs and their religious practices have been hijacked by Michael Witzel, a Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and a few like-minded colleagues with demonstrable anti-Hindu links. Below, just some of the acrimonious, cynical and dismissive comments of Professors Witzel, Wolpert and Heitzman (Witzel, et al) are seen (For a full viewing of comments made by Witzel, et al on the specific edits and changes recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee and CRPE Bajpai, click here)
We believe these comments clearly relay the urgency with which Hindus must counter this insidious Hinduphobia. With your support, we can ensure that Hinduism is represented in a fair and appropriate manner.
- The Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) and Content Review Panel Expert (CRPE) Bajpai recommended a correction stating that the Indian epic Ramayana was written before the Indian epic, Mahabharata.
- Witzel, et al respond with, “Who in sixth grade cares which epic was “written” first?”
- AHC and CRPE Bajpai recommended capitalizing ‘g’ in the words God or Gods to better describe Hinduism as a tradition that is not polytheistic but instead one that propounds a theology of panentheistic monotheism, recognizing that god is immanent in all of creation and yet transcendent. Also, since the letter “G” is capitalized when referring to God in Christianity, the same respect, with use of a capital “G” should be given to Hindu Divinity.
- Witzel, et al want to retain the text “Many gods exist …”
- AHC and CRPE Bajpai recommended that textbooks state that women enjoyed different rights than men and received some education. There is also little or no discussion of the concept of shakti or feminine divinity and the historical existence of brahmacarinis, sanyasinis and female saints. (Noteworthy: the textbooks portray the status of women in Islam sympathetically. They state that even though women had fewer rights than men, Islam conferred on women several rights that pre-Islamic Arab society had denied)
- Witzel, et al want to retain text that said, “Hinduism also taught that women were inferior to men.” They did not want to mention the fact that women were saints and composers of the Vedas, Hinduism’s ancient texts.
- Textbooks, while discussing other religions, do not present the historic misuses of religion to perpetuate social evils such as slavery, anti-Semitism or holy wars, all of which are part of the history of other world religions. In contrast, social practices like untouchability and caste discrimination are presented as central tenets of Hinduism. The textbooks fail to mention that these are social customs also prevalent in non-Hindu communities throughout South Asia. They also fail to mention that many Hindu sacred texts were authored by “lower castes.”
- Witzel, et al and their supporters want to stress that caste discrimination is a central part of Hinduism and do not want to acknowledge the contributions of ‘untouchables’ to Hinduism.
- AHC and CRPE Bajpai suggested that Hinduism be portrayed as a natural internal development of a composite Indian society, which also included the Aryans. This suggestion reflects an alternative theory based on the latest archeological, genetic and astronomical developments.
- Witzel, et al suggest that no mention of newer theories that conflict with the Aryan Invasion Theory (which Witzel, et al propound) be made. They also allege that mentioning that Aryans were part of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization was a crude Hindu attempt at creating linkage with that civilization. (Noteworthy: For the portion on Islamic history, mention of converts to Islam through conquest has been eliminated)
- Witzel, et al object to a well-written explanation of ayurveda and yoga as systems developed by ancient Indians for spiritual and medical well being.
A coalition of anti-Hindu academics, Indian Marxist activists, Christian missionaries representing themselves as Dalits, and others who are wholly unfamiliar with California’s educational guidelines and either unfamiliar or antagonistic towards Hinduism are working to have the SBE overturn the original recommendations made by the AHC on November 8, 2005 as well as the latest corrections and edits accepted by the CC on December 2, 2005.
Significantly, these individuals and groups want to maintain the textbooks as written, which as demonstrated above, misrepresent Hindu belief and focus on the "dark side" of Hinduism. They especially would like to see Hinduism portrayed as a religion of oppression and a religion foreign to India. Their main motivation: political, social and religious agendas: Marxists/Communist with their political ideology and inclination to consider religion an "opiate of the masses" and interpret history in terms of class struggle and Christian missionaries with their interest in the untouchables for targeted conversion.
Interestingly, these same groups have taken not one issue with the presentation of Judaism, Christianity, Islam or the other traditions. Nor have they expressed any concern with the lack of coverage in the textbooks of the oppression, subjugation and violence historically committed and perpetrated against one another, against women and against religious minorities in the name of these religions respectively. Their single focus is on Hinduism.
The current textbooks, we believe, violate SBE guidelines because they do not leave a student with respect for Hinduism, and in fact adversely reflect on the child’s creed and ancestry. They also do not portray Hinduism as understood by practicing Hindus; in contrast the other world traditions are portrayed from this perspective.
If anti-Hindu groups are successful, sixth graders in California public schools, and in following California’s lead, children in public schools across the U.S., will learn a warped, outdated version of Hinduism which is not on par with the portrayal of other religions.