Hindu Americans Expose Online Hate in Latest Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 6, 2007) – Internet websites promoting religious hatred and intolerance towards Hindus and Hinduism are proliferating, and this trend has adverse long-term consequences for the Hindu American community, according to the latest report released by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) today.  Entitled Hyperlink to Hinduphobia: Online Hatred, Extremism and Bigotry Against Hindus, the publication argues that exposing online hate-speech is a crucial first step in combating a major factor behind prevalent negative stereotypes of Hinduism.

In its fifty-two page report, the Foundation traces the origins of online religious hate and bigotry, and presents evidence of the text and pictures from actual websites that illustrate their concerns.  According to statistics provided in the report, “demonic” and “satanic” are the terms most commonly used today to describe Hinduism by numerous anti-Hindu websites easily accessible on the Internet.

“The proliferation of websites promoting religious hatred is an unfortunate consequence of the universality of access to the internet,” said Vinay Vallabh, lead author of the report, and member of the Foundation’s Executive Council.  “We must vigorously identify, condemn and counter those who use the Internet to espouse chauvinism and bigotry over the principles of pluralism and tolerance.”

The Foundation initiative is similar to successful and well-publicized efforts of human rights groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center, among others, to monitor hate sites.  These organizations have in various instances collaborated with Internet Service Providers (ISP) to establish voluntary guidelines aimed at limiting access to certain websites and discussion groups.

“Though it is less well-known in this country, anti-Hindu bigotry is every bit as ugly and dangerous as anti-Semitism or racism, and every bit as present on the Internet,” wrote Prof. Jeffrey Long, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, in his foreword to the report.  “As we all know, murderous rampages have been inspired by anti-Semitic and racist websites. And it is not necessary for a website to exhort its readers to actual, physical violence for it to lead to such violence.”

Through this report, the Hindu American Foundation hopes to complete a critical analysis of anti-Hindu hate groups and their message.  Such analysis is necessary, lead author Vallabh asserted, as according to the Foundation, content identified in this report threatens interfaith dialogue, mutual respect and civil discourse at best, and ultimately could lead to violence at worst.  Vallabh pointed to the recent attacks on Hindu temples in the United States, and ongoing persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan as consequences of inaction.  

“Online hate is at the vanguard of societal misunderstanding and intolerance,” Vallabh added.  “It is our hope that this report will encourage ISP’s to voluntarily restrict sites that wantonly promote hatred and intolerance towards Hindus and Hinduism or any other religion—a necessary step as we continue our balancing act between free speech and licentious speech that leads to violence in the electronic age.”

Copies of the report, which includes basic information about Hinduism and a glossary, are being distributed to members of the United States Congress, non-governmental organizations, journalists, Hindu leaders and human rights groups.  It is available for purchase and can be downloaded for free from the Foundation’s website at www.HAFsite.org

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The Hindu American Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3), non-partisan organization, promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.