HAF Counters Biased Coverage of Emory-Courtright Issue in Washington Post

The Washington Post printed an article covering the outrage of Hindus over the rampant academic abuse of Hindu Gods and beliefs. Written in a partisan manner with unfair labeling of Hindu supporters, the article failed to assess the genesis of the controversy and continued the misrepresentations that Hindus have opposed. HAF rapidly communicated with the newspaper, issued a report highlighting the erroneous coverage and initiated a moderated petition.

Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

Shankar Vedantam's April 10 article, "Wrath over a Hindu God," fails to accurately convey the grievances of the 2 million strong Hindu-American community in the U.S. It is marred by factual inaccuracies and a Machiavellian implication that the wrath of Hindu-Americans is politically inspired.

Though this growing Hindu-American community may legitimately insist that its own narratives, its religious beliefs and spiritual practices be afforded a sanctity and dignity that academics ensure to other faiths, it is a tragic reality that a cabal of mutually appointed Hinduism "experts," have for too long misused the vast canvas of Hindu scripture as a playground for discredited, grotesque psychoanalysis and derogation. Such analyses only serve to caricature Hindus as followers of backward beliefs and false gods--opening the door to an insidious intolerance that manifests in derision at school and, ultimately, in the kinds of hate crimes Hindus continue to suffer post-9/11.

Additionally, to imply, as the article does, that the growing outrage of Hindu-Americans over how their religion is demeaned by the likes of Professor Courtright and Doniger in the United States is related to politics in India is to disparage and belittle the genuine sentiments of Hindus in this country. Hindu-Americans, first and foremost as proud Americans, are exercising their constitutional right to protest an injustice that occurred here in the U.S. Mr. Vedantam reports that Professor Courtright is being challenged on a book written 15 years ago as if it were long forgotten—omitting the fact that the book was being reprinted last year when the controversy erupted.

For too long, many have donned the cloak of "academic freedom" as a tool to deconstruct and debase Hindu perceptions of God and Truth, the scriptural bases of their interpretations and the heroes Hindus worship. Hindu-Americans are exercising their own "freedom"—that to protest. Professors Courtright and Doniger can better help the American public by ensuring that all Americans better understand Hinduism, with its unique focus on tolerance and pluralism so relevant today, instead of trying to defame it with skewed psychoanalysis to which no one in the 1 billion strong Hindu community subscribes.


Aseem R. Shukla, M.D.
Member, Board of Directors
Hindu American Foundation