HAF Welcomes Hindu Temple Reversal on Hosting Hindu Monk

Washington, D.C. (September 7, 2010) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) applauded the decision over the weekend by the Hindu Samaj Temple of Mahwah, New Jersey to reverse course and host a religious discourse by Sadhvi Ritambhara, a visiting holy woman from India.  The temple rejected protests from a coalition of known leftist radical and communist Indian Americans and the Indian Muslim Council (IMC) who have been pressuring American Hindu temples over several years to deny the Sadhvi (“sadhvi” is an appellation given to female monks) opportunities to present Hindu religious discourses, and repeatedly asking the State Department to revoke her visa.
 
This year too, the coalition and IMC sought to pressure Hindu temples, arguing that the Sadhvi is a supporter of Hindu nationalist ideology and had given provocative speeches nearly two decades ago over the Babri mosque.  The Babri mosque, a conquest edifice, was built by a 16th century Muslim ruler of India, Zahir ud-din Muhammad Babur, on the site of a centuries-old temple to Lord Rama he had destroyed.  The Babri masjid became a contested site and legal battles were fought over decades to resolve the question of whether the land belonged to Hindus or Muslims. That structure was subsequently destroyed when Hindu protests at the site devolved into a rampage in 1992, sparking bloody riots in its wake.
 
On her many annual visits to the United States since then, the Sadhvi has given rigorous discourses on the Shrimad Bhagvatam, one of Hinduism’s most popular scriptures  and is now known in India for her founding of a prominent orphanage and women’s shelter, Vatsalya Gram, located in India’s famed pilgrimage site, Vrindavan.  She is also recognized as one of the few Hindu female spiritual leaders with a global following.
 
“The attempt by the IMC and the radical coalition groups to vilify the Sadhvi, who is here for purely spiritual and charitable work, is a political ploy to tar Hindu leaders and to debilitate the ability of Hindu Americans to support charitable work in India and to hear discourses on Hindu spirituality,” said Rishi Bhutada, member of HAF’s Executive Council.  “It is the height of impropriety and absolutely unacceptable that these groups would defame Hindu leaders and presume to dictate to Hindu temples as to who should or should not be given the opportunity to speak there.  The Hindu Samaj Temple, while initially seeming to succumb to these intimidation tactics, showed great courage in hosting the sadhvi.”
 
Foundation leaders said that attacking a holy woman from India whose spiritual talks are very popular in the United States, seemed to be part of a concerted effort to discredit Hindu leaders and advocacy groups in general, even those such as HAF that have no connection to Indian politics.  HAF faced off against many of the same groups during its lawsuit over distortions of Hinduism in school textbooks that it filed against the California State Board of Education in 2006.
 
“These same, usual-suspects, to give one example, supported a textbook that said only Islam raised the status of women, but opposed our efforts to explain that Hinduism is the only major religion that worships the divine in female form, that has had numerous female saints and does not teach that women are inferior to men,” said Mihir Meghani, HAF co-founder and Board member.
 
The Foundation eventually won the lawsuit, proving that the SBE had acted illegally and had mistreated Hindus -- this too despite ideological bedfellows of radical groups involved in the campaign against the sadhvi launching a failed effort to file an amicus brief in court attacking HAF.
 
Bhutada and Meghani were particularly distressed, they explained, because while the IMC denounces the sadhvi for her alleged political views, the same IMC saw no conflict in hosting founders or supporters of terrorist outfits now banned in the United States and India, such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) or the gory Maoist Naxalite movement.  The Council regularly invites known Indian Communist and leftist radical leaders to speak at their annual conference, some of whom have been censured for their overt support for those violent Maoist terrorists active in Central India -- a bloody insurgency that was recently called the “greatest threat to India’s internal security” by India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
 
“It’s bad enough that the IMC and many Indian American leftist and communist groups launch ad-hominem attacks on Hindus and Hindu advocacy organizations merely because of their ideological differences, but it is truly shameful for them to gratuitously demonize a sadhvi giving spiritual discourses at Hindu temples.” Bhutada added.  “We can only hope that our temples will follow the Hindu Samaj Temple’s lead and stand up against such oppressive attacks and continue to provide a forum for Hindu religious and spiritual figures during their visits.”