Obama, The Destroyer of the World [updated]

newsweek-cover-obama-god-of-all-things-shiva-sad-hill-news.jpg

Here we go again. And by that I’m referring to the Ms. 2009 cover depicting a multi-armed mom. This time, it’s an image of President Obama. Newsweek’s November 22nd, 2010 issue headlined “God of All Things” shows Obama on the cover balancing multiple policy issues and balancing on one leg. The image is of Hindu deity, Shiva, also know as “the destroyer of the world.”

Suhag Shukla of the Washington-based Hindu-American Foundation told FoxNews that her group doesn’t think Newsweek meant to be malicious, but believes ‘the cover was in line with the media’s comfort of utilizing Hindu symbols or deities to symbolize an issue.’

Zed said that Hindus understood that the purpose of Newsweek was not to denigrate Hinduism, but warned casual flirting like this sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols and hurting the devotees.[dailymail]

In the rest of the world, Hindus are outraged. > Hindus in Malaysia are taking more drastic measures. They are demanding the government remove the issue from all of the country’s newsstands. [abc]

It feels like this is turning into an annual thing, isn’t it? A major magazine anthropomorphizing a Hindu God into a (famous) person and putting it on the cover seems to be an annual occurrence. What may be worse is that they really should have done their research because what had initially been a sympathetic cover of everything the President had to juggle quickly turned into a jab at the President as being a world destroyer. After those 12 stitches to his lips today from a holiday basketball game, it’s pretty clear he’s not invincible.

How offended were you, Mutineers?

UPDATED:

National Review.jpg To provide context, the above cover is from the National Review, June 2009. Related blog post at Swami Sotomayor.

Ms. Mag.jpg

The above cover is from Ms. Magazine, July 2009. Related blog post at Keep Your Hands to Yourself.

My question is, why were more people offended by the Ms, and National Review covers (see comments in previous blogs) than they were of the Newsweek cover? How is this different?

This entry was posted in Art, Politics, Religion by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

160 thoughts on “Obama, The Destroyer of the World [updated]

  1. Whatever Alina says is true of Americans who feel frustrated at Christmas time: the struggle to get parking spots, long lines at the check-out clerk, delays in flights, being stuck in an airport.

    And we can make Americans defensive about the lack of health care, retirement benefits and so on. That’s just like making third world countries defensive about the way they attend calls of nature.

  2. alina – you are hilarious. i am saying that very little of what you are saying is empirically founded, and you are saying that, well, here is more of what i think about the topic of indians and their presumed defensiveness. i don’t know what research in psychology you are referring to, but nothing that i know of bears out your claim that indians are more defensive or protective than other ethnicities & that could not be explained by simply the environment they are in.

    examine your assumptions, please!

  3. Anila, Imagine you are in a foreign country, say Japan. The locals there, some of whom have never been to the US, and have learnt about it mainly from books, TV , and stories from tourists,somehow decide to take it upon themselves to ‘educate’ you about your country’s various weaknesses and perceived flaws– gun crime, racism, religious intolerance, unemployment, ghettos, Islamophobia, drugs, teen pregnancy, pornography, moral decay, broken families, trailer trash, neo-imperialism, wikileak cables- you get my point? Even if you weren’t too patriotic to begin with, you are bound to become defensive and combative. Just like the family analogy Yoga gave above. Also, your being desi perhaps has something to do with your views on Indians. The next time you meet a Chinese student, please try and criticise his government and/or society. You might be surprised with the result.

  4. Lupus,

    I’ve lived in Japan. I’ve had the lecture. It’s amazing how much I defended Bush, whom I otherwise loathe, just because it was some Japanese guy telling me how Bush was soooo awful. It wasn’t even that I agreed with that policy he criticized, it was that I felt like he was oversimplifying his argument to the point of “Bush is bad, therefore America is bad.”

  5. ,Imagine you are in a foreign country, say Japan. The locals there, some of whom have never been to the US, and have learnt about it mainly from books, TV , and stories from tourists,somehow decide to take it upon themselves to ‘educate’ you about your country’s various weaknesses and perceived flaws– gun crime, racism, religious intolerance, unemployment, ghettos, Islamophobia, drugs, teen pregnancy, pornography, moral decay, broken families, trailer trash, neo-imperialism, wikileak cables- you get my point?

    The difference is, I would not take comments about American problems as personal attacks. If you told me NYC is dirty and polluted, I wouldn’t react with hostility. I would never dare to make the same comment to someone from Mumbai, because chances are they’d flip out. What’s funny is all I stated is that in my experience, Indian people are very defensive. And in response, like 5 Indian people responded with defensive and hostile comments, surprise surprise!

    The next time you meet a Chinese student, please try and criticise his government and/or society. You might be surprised with the result.

    One of my suitemates is from beijing. She is probably one of the most articulate and intelligent people I’ve ever met and would certainly not respond by jumping down my throat. I don’t know why you’re trying to lump china/india together here either.

  6. We don’t really know why you bother posting on here either. Why don’t you stop posting since none of us can figure out why you should be on here

    Hahaha I see, so this is a site for Indians to post pro Indian opinions and when someone posts a different opinion, the immature kindergartener trots out and tells them to leave the playground.

    alina – you are hilarious. i am saying that very little of what you are saying is empirically founded, and you are saying that, well, here is more of what i think about the topic of indians and their presumed defensiveness. i don’t know what research in psychology you are referring to, but nothing that i know of bears out your claim that indians are more defensive or protective than other ethnicities & that could not be explained by simply the environment they are in. examine your assumptions, please!

    LOL it’s hilarious you’re telling me to examine my assumptions when you just made so many. I am not referring research in psychology here, I am simply trying to share an opinion based on personal experience, are you incapable of understanding that? If I told you my favorite color is green, would you then expect me to post psychological statistics on why green is most pleasing, or could you simply accept that it is my experience/opinion and accept it? I am not writing a paper on Indian psychological patterns here, I responded to a comment (from pardesi gori) in agreement and you jump down my throat asking for empirical research…hilarious. Also, thank you for reinforcing both of our points.

  7. Hello Dr.A

    Heh, actually, in spite of the cordiality of our conversation here, and as you probably know, I was not being complimentary when i remarked that you make things unnecessarily complex. We can all split hairs and analyze things to oblivion while comprehending what we are doing, the problem is when we restrict ourselves toviewing things through specific lenses or frameworks–something which i have not done, and why i find your “narrow” label misplaced.

    Also, I think you misunderstood my remarks. I was not fitting hinduism into a box, merely pointing out that dharma is central to the faith. Now, are there various schools that have acted and reacted to it as they have to the vedas?–yes, but the idea of dharma(as the vedas) remain central to it. You can reject the authorities of these teachings and adopt the nastika (unorthodox) school of your choice as the lokayatas the world over have done or you can proceed on a more orthodox track and remain a hindu. As i said above, you can pick and choose. Nevertheless, there are central aspects of the faith that are acted on or reacted to, and that’s part of what gives it a fundamental coherence. It absolutely is fluid, and variegated, but also coherent. I know we all want to “imagine” ourselves as unique little flowers who feel, express, and emote in unique and heretofore unaccomplished ways, but the reality is that without understanding what these texts, teachings and concepts actually say and how they should actually be interpreted, your own subjective and questionable interpretations lose their validity.

    In any event, no one here or at haf seeks to define hinduism according certain terms or fit it into an abrahamic framework (while there may be a politically expedient few some where in the world who do). hindus need not be apologetic of our idolatry or monism (or polytheism, etc etc). and yes, i think most people here know that hinduism truly is more of a way of life than a rigid, doctrinal faith. no one here or at haf seeks to tell you what you need to do in order to be a hindu (and in fact, if you actually deigned to check out their site, you can actually see how they go out of their way to be inclusive and respectful of the homosexual hindu community as well…so tragically not as reactionary as you may have hoped).

    the problem is your approach is excessively framework driven, which is why it’s difficult for you to accept that a group like haf could be representing hindu perspectives in a modern, progressive and peaceable fashion. just as there are various sects frequently at loggerheads in Christianity and other faiths, hinduism has its own diversity–that does not mean it cannot organize like all other groups to ensure the rights of its practitioners are not violated. the variegated nature of the faith should not preclude at least one voice from providing some coherent arguments when necessary irrespective of what you imagine you can or cannot sanction. If you believe that what you apparently define as “your hinduism” needs a voice as well, then by all means, start a group and represent your view; however, the kneejerk approach to haf only makes you seem closeminded and politically opportunistic given the “secular” paradigm about any sort of political hinduism (even rights advocacy).

    • Hi SW,

      I was well aware that making this complicated was not a compliment in that context- I just chose to take it as one :)

      I have at least four objections. Firstly, I have no problem with a critique of human rights violations that comes from a group or movement that is faith-based. Arguing otherwise would require discarding the critiques of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, liberation theologists, even Stephen Colbert, etc. Humanism, decency, respect, conciousness are more central to what I’m arguing here and elsewhere than radical secularism. It’s not that I can’t believe that a Hindu group or a faith based group can possibly be progressive, ‘modern’, etc. Just not convinced about this one.

      Secondly, leaders of ‘Hindu-American’ identity groups and their supporters can’t have it both ways – offense can be taken at critiques of faith groups, but not if they deliberately inject their faith identity into politics (the pragmatic argument from Jefferson, I think, on why faith groups might want to stay out of politics). On the other hand, these groups and their supporters can use their faith identity as a grounds for politics, but then they should expect their commentary on issues of politics and faith to be contested, particularly from members of their own faith group. Including on the matter of whether or not it is appropriate to use faith in a particular context and what it is being used for.

      Thirdly, to be blunt, I don’t understand anything you’re saying about frameworks or conflict. How can someone talk about something with the gravity of human rights violations – or really anything in the political world- without having some kind of worldview, whether self-understood or not? Even the most basic statement about politics has at least a few assumptions or preconceptions behind it usually.

      Fourth, don’t need to start a group – happy being a shiny happy flower on my own. And the Hindu-American Foundation will need to get used to me and other shiny happy flowers if they are trying to act on behalf of ‘Hindu-Americans’.

      Good luck :)

  8. I am not referring research in psychology here, I am simply trying to share an opinion based on personal experience, are you incapable of understanding that? More evidence that the you are not getting the point we are making here. This is a pity. I am here simplifying the points made by Yoga Fire and Lupus Solitarus that much of what you claim to be observing is simply explained by a reference to the situation. They provided various analogies to illustrate that these situations are not unique to any particular nationality and ethnicity. In any case, please engage with them.

  9. Alina :

    If I told you my favorite color is green, would you then expect me to post psychological statistics on why green is most pleasing, or could you simply accept that it is my experience/opinion and accept it? I am not writing a paper on Indian psychological patterns here, I responded to a comment (from pardesi gori) in agreement and you jump down my throat asking for empirical research… On the one hand, you are making an observation of personal preference with the statement that “green is most pleasing color to you.” This is easily verifiable by simply interrogating you. On the other hand, you are making a sociological observation (“Indians are defensive”) which is amenable to questioning and verification. Any specific person’s personal preferences are not studied as part of any program of study. However, sociological observations indeed are. So the standards for judging the first are not the same as the standards for judging the second.

    You don’t need to provide evidence from research, but since you have not, one must assume that these are personal observations that lack rigor. I am unsure why this illustrates any particular point about Indians that you seem to think this illustrates but perhaps I don’t understand what you are saying.

  10. I thought I’d just add a few points here…

    1.) People are arguing that if an American went to a foreign country and someone asked about American, we would automatically get defensive about our country. I really just have to say, that is not the case at all. In fact, having lived in India, and visited quite a lot of other countries, I have had some very interesting conversations with people– many of them brought out by questions about, say Bush. I don’t like Bush, and if someone is going to criticize him, I am just as likely to join in, regardless of the origins of that person. In fact, I would be so EMBARRASSED to defend him or anything he is done. The same goes for cultural things– one popular question I have gotten is about divorce in the U.S.– I may get a tiny bit defensive on this (since I am engaged to an Indian) and I don’t want people to stereotype me. But that doesn’t mean I won’t admit that there is a lot of divorce in America, and yeah, definitely something to work on in the U.S. (I would be defensive as in “I’m not like that” because, well, I’m not.)

    2.) “Indians are Defensive” I agree with many people that you can’t stereotype an entire people, but I do have to say (from my own personal experience/observations) I HAVE noticed a lot of NRI Indians being defensive– much more so than Indians in India. Maybe because they get asked stupid and inane questions about India more often? Or they feel more judged? Probably. Of course, again, this wouldn’t apply to all NRIs.

  11. On the other hand, you are making a sociological observation (“Indians are defensive”) which is amenable to questioning and verification. Any specific person’s personal preferences are not studied as part of any program of study. However, sociological observations indeed are

    If I came out and said “Indians are defensive” then I would be making a sociological observation for sure. But I didn’t say that. What I’m saying is in my personal experience, I have noticed the Indians I have personally interacted with or observed on a day to day basis seem to respond to comments more defensively than non-Indians. That is all. I’m not here to make broad sociological statements about 1 billion people. I’m only speaking from my own observations and personal experience and relating what I have observed to another poster who observed similar things.

    You don’t need to provide evidence from research, but since you have not, one must assume that these are personal observations that lack rigor

    I am not aware of any study in which Indian immigrants were compared to other ethnic groups to measure levels of defensiveness across cultures, so naturally I can’t provide evidence for it. That doesn’t make my personal experiences any less valid. Obviously if I was writing a paper for a sociology class I could not cite personal experience, but as it is, Sepia Mutiny is an online blog where Desi’s often speak about their personal experiences, observations, etc in regards to Desi culture. So I don’t think I’m out of line here.

  12. I agree with many people that you can’t stereotype an entire people, but I do have to say (from my own personal experience/observations) I HAVE noticed a lot of NRI Indians being defensive– much more so than Indians in India. Maybe because they get asked stupid and inane questions about India more often? Or they feel more judged? Probably. That may be true, but defensive about what in particular? It sounds like you are saying that NRIs might be a tad bit defensive in regards to questions about India, and if that is the case, it is absolutely unnescessary. I can see, however, why NRIs might be defensive about matters related to Hinduism or Buddhism or even Indian Christianity & Islam, since they may not find ideological attacks on these religions reasonable.

    And, btw, where is the Buddhist outrage about this cover?

    • Yes, I mean to questions or comments about India, or images, films (etc) that relate to India.

      For example, “Slum Dog Millionaire” or mentioning of poverty in India.

  13. What I’m saying is in my personal experience, I have noticed the Indians I have personally interacted with or observed on a day to day basis seem to respond to comments more defensively than non-Indians. If I may ask – comments on what? Are you talking about comments related to India? If so, I can see why Indians may react defensively since they are asked a number of silly questions about India all the time.

    I enjoyed reading Lindsey’s comment even if it made the point that Indians are defensive. Perhaps, it is because she talks about the process part of the equation (‘they get asked a lot of silly questions’). Judging by the articles I have read in the press here (and I have no problems, generally speaking, with the editorial policy of the New York Times), it does not seem to be a widely accepted idea in America.

  14. Dr. A,

      But you see, that’s the problem–your objections aren’t supported by any evidence. They are merely assertions and restatements of your own assumptions.

    1. you don’t establish why haf doesn’t pass your much touted standards for a faith based rights group, but cair (with all its warts which i won’t touch on) and other groups do. in effect, all you say is that haf has no real right to take offense on behalf of all hindus, but other religious advocacy groups can arrogate that right on behalf of their communities.

    2. that’s disingenuous–again we’re seeing double standards between this faith group and other faith groups that have stepped in and taken offense at criticism in spite of being political groups. in fact, we’ve seen the development of an entire lexicon of assorted phobias and bigotries that are automatically appended to anyone raising a well-reasoned even classically liberal critique against that faith or issues associated with it. what’s more, we’ve seen it escalate to the point where any critique is deemed an assault against the human rights of the group–even blasphemous–in spite of the fact that those groups are very overtly political: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE52P60220090326 . but somehow these groups appear to pass your much vaunted standards with flying colors. so again, your argument fails the test of logic on a particularly astounding scale.

    3.to be equally blunt, the problem isn’t that you have a world view, the problem is that you insist on only viewing things in terms of that world view. obviously one can easily pick out what my world view is, but i will still consider opposing views logically and evaluate my own against them–modifying if needed. it is not ideology that motivates it, but logic. in contrast, you haven’t afforded any well-reasoned contentions why haf is not a progressive organization let alone a legitimate one. in effect, it is ideology that is motivating your argument rather than logic. to maintain the consistency of your opposition to hindu political groups in general, you have to oppose this one to maintain the coherence of your own ideology.

    1. with respect to haf,  you’ve only spoken in the vaguest and most general of terms as to why you think it’s illegitimate or unworthy of your self-touted standards, but you ignore the key specifics and fail to provide any tangible support. you insinuate that it isn’t progressive enough, but you completely ignore its very publicly progressive positions–which i noted above–on rights for homosexual hindus (which is especially in contrast to the vast majority of religious advocacy groups). you claim that certain political assumptions are natural to make (in your case class and caste conflict) but ignore haf’s conscientious position and advocacy against caste discrimination. you decry the tribalism of the non-universal humanist, but ignore the fact that haf has publicly criticized hindu temples for discriminating against hindus of non-indian heritage.

    ultimately, like i said above, i have no connection to haf, nor do i intend to become a member, but unfortunately, you seem to be justifying the chip on your shoulder with intellectual laziness or convenient equivocation rather than well-reasoned and cogent argument. i think if you really want to be the change you wants to see, a good starting point is to shine as glaring a light on yourself as you do on others…all the best with that.

    • Hi SW,

      I was not mounting an argument, but expressing concerns I have on the basis of passing exposure to Hindu American Foundation, in the context of many, many other Hindu-based political groups.

      Among the things i am concerned about: they pressed a lawsuit to alter secondary school textbooks in California according to their own preconceptions; they focus on particularly upper class concerns (e.g. textbooks, whether yoga’s brand has been ‘dehinduized); they speak in the name of all hindus but I have never been asked what hinduism means to me by them – would be interested if anyone here has been; it’s unclear to me what they will do when invocations of hinduism and humanism clash (e.g. where they fall when Hinduism is invoked to promote inequality, violations of human rights, or at worst killing people; the point i have repeatedly made above about the need to blend identity based approaches with a broader concern for humanism; whether they will work with, respect and recognize people from all other faith groups, etc; whether they are capable of understanding the dynamic of communalism and not just specific aspects that target Hindus, etc.).

      I am glad that they have raised the issue of human rights violations in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kashmir, but mainly because I think it might draw attention to human rights violations in the area just as, say Action for a Progressive Pakistan does. Not because I think that Hindus are globally under attack for being Hindus.

      I’m leaving aside the rest for now for reasons of time. I want to add, though, that although you may believe that your way of looking at the world is quite clear based on your comments, i actually have little idea what it is! So I would be cautious about claiming that someone else’s perspective is ideological or disingenuous – it may simply be different from yours. And in my opinion based on more accurate suppositions :)

      Best wishes, Dr A

  15. “How is this not offensive? This is a deity that a TON of human beings hold to be sacred”

    This is certainly true, and should be taken into consideration. But frankly, with unemployment at 9.8%, I’d be surprised if even his worshipers consider him sacred.

  16. “Why”, you make some good points but you are off base with regards to me. I am not an “ignorant foreigner” green newbie who charged into India with a view to “civilize the natives”. I even wrote above that it is NOT my place to “change” India – and even if it were, I am powerless to do so. It is fully the responsibility of the natives of any land to make the neccessary changes to their countries and cultures that will benefit themselves and the world (if their vision is broad enough to include the “global village”).

    We’ve been sold a bill of goods on 2 accounts:

    1. our religious books and leaders teach us that India is the most glorious place on the planet and that Indians carry some awesome spiritual DNA in their blood and are thus “superior” to everyone else, including sincere converts who happen to not be Desi, and

    2. earthy-crunchy left-wing Western liberals teach us to put on rose-colored glasses, be PC and accept the theory of “cultural relativity”.

    Thus, religious-minded non-Indians who convert to a Hindu sect and thus spent considerable time in India have to employ much cognitive dissonance as a sort of survival mechanism, not only in India amongst Indians but also in the increasingly PC “global village” of the media.

    I invite these “green” earthy-crunchy kumbaya Western liberal intellectuals to live as I do, where I do, and with whom I do. Then we’ll see how long their “cultural-relativity-vada” survives.

    It’s a jungle out here. And increasingly, a concrete jungle.

    Mera Bharat Mahan!

  17. Lupus Solitarous, “And pray tell me, why is it something that concerns only the above 2 groups? Do you think that your western upbringing makes you in some way more immune to commercialisation? If so, any educated Indian who knows a bare minimum about western societies would find that hilarious”

    Those 2 groups because non-Indians who convert to Hinduism tend to be less commercial driven than mainstream western society and Desis who were born and/or raised in the West who take offense to commercialization of Hinduism or religion/culture in general also tend to not be amongst the mainstream of either western or eastern society.

    I guess we are “priveleged” in the sense that we can “afford” not to commercialize our spirituality. But we should also not swallow the PC white guilt kool-aid that the “natives” are somehow “more in tune with nature/God” than we are. That the “East” is full of humble folk practicing authentic mysticism while the “West” is full of materialistic imperialists that need to forever wear a scarlet letter around their necks to make up for this thing called “white privelege”.

    I blame Western airy-fariy elite White-guilt liberals for spreading these lies more than anyone else.

    I invite them to my current ‘hood. Let’s see how long they last…….

    You cannot survive here if you are a bleeding-heart PC cultural relativist. You will get swallowed up and eaten alive.

  18. “There are legitimate concerns about some of the popular representations of Hinduism; any similar depictions of Islam would be met with far greater uproar.”

    SO WHAT?

    Do you want Hinduism to become as hyper-sensitive and fanatical as current day Islam?

    Hinduism’s tolerance of appropriation is a SELLING POINT!

    Hindus should rather react, “yes, just see how liberal and tolerant we are that we do not become outraged over these things. we are truly a religion for the post-modern era. visit us at http://www.coolhinduism.org.”

    That (some – many?) Hindus feel that becoming just as hyper-sensitive and fanatical as (some – many?) Muslims would be a GOOD thing is worrisome!

    The Abrahamic god is an angry god – he said so himself.

    Krishna on the otherhand……. well, he likes to have fun.

    Nietzsche said, “I would believe in a god who could dance”.

    Rasa Lila anyone?

  19. Alina :

    I’m not here to make broad sociological statements about 1 billion people.

    You are quite wrong in assuming that it would even be possible to make broad sociological statements about a billion people. Take education as a predictor variable. The level of education is, in general, a much better predictor of sociological attributes such as ability to eat 3 meals a day, holding down a job, engaging in recreational activities, et cetera., than ethnicity. So : the chances that there is anything at all in common between, say, Vinod Khosla and Ram Singh the average farmers are remote.

    You said you were a desi, but you didn’t say you were an Indian. So, I assume you are not an Indian. I just want to let you know that I have very little in common with many of the very poor Indians I have met, and indeed most Indians.

    Thinking of commentators as white people from Europe might help you understand our opinions better.

    PG :

    I would like to make a few points in response to yours. Let me just note that these points have been over and over again.

    Let me start off my noting that we, the NRIs and the Indian Americans, don’t consider ourselves as having any sort of special cultural DNA. In fact, that whole idea is a bunch of hokey, and unfortunately, it is a bunch of hokey that is repeated time and again as though simple repetition of this “line” is going to change the facts of the matter. And as I have noted, it is absolutely nescessary for people to be defensive about the facts related to India. I think Indian culture is worth being proud of just as I am proud of Mayan and Jewish culture because I believe I am descended from the Mayas as well as pre-Old Testament Jews.

    Second, there is a tendency to lump together the entire set of Indians as one block of one billion people. The chances that there is anything at all in common between, say, Vinod Khosla and Ram Singh, the average farmer in India, are remote.

    It is fully the responsibility of the natives of any land to make the neccessary changes to their countries and cultures that will benefit themselves and the world (if their vision is broad enough to include the “global village”). I have no idea why you think that the “natives” of the land you are talking about are not making fantastic progress – at least, most reliable sources are telling me that the economy is growing at a very fast pace. It is fully your responsibility to do whatever is needed to make yourself feel better about the place you are living in.

    We’ve been sold a bill of goods on 2 accounts: You get what you pay for. If you paid for a better education, you would have got it. It is really your business that you bought that nonsense in the first place.

    1. our religious books and leaders teach us that India is the most glorious place on the planet and that Indians carry some awesome spiritual DNA in their blood and are thus “superior” to everyone else, including sincere converts who happen to not be Desi, and Hinduism does not per se teach that India is the most glorious place on the planet. Try again.

    2. earthy-crunchy left-wing Western liberals teach us to put on rose-colored glasses, be PC and accept the theory of “cultural relativity”. Whatever this religion is, please don’t pass it on to your children. It is really the most solid bunch of baloney I have heard in a long time.

    Thus, religious-minded non-Indians who convert to a Hindu sect and thus spent considerable time in India have to employ much cognitive dissonance as a sort of survival mechanism, not only in India amongst Indians but also in the increasingly PC “global village” of the media.

    I invite these “green” earthy-crunchy kumbaya Western liberal intellectuals to live as I do, where I do, and with whom I do. Then we’ll see how long their “cultural-relativity-vada” survives. Why should anyone live your life? So far you have blamed Western liberals, people on this blog, Hindu religious books, the leaders of your organization, … the list is endless.

    You need to really stop blaming others, most of all the Indians who have at least been nice enough to host you.

  20. Ok a few things :

    1) I don’t agree with you but suppose you did believe that Indians/ desis/ nris whatever are more sensitive than other people. Clearly, that is not the case, but let us just assume that it is. Surely then you would realize that to be a positive, helpful contributor to the board, you would need to take that into account and adjust your commenting/ behaviour accordingly? Otherwise, you are just trolling.

    2) To say that Americans or any other race are not sensitive to criticism of their country is just absolute rubbish, particularly in the face of a “complete country diss” as that given by PG. In my experience, Americans and other races are very quick to defend their country when they feel they are being maligned. I have seen many, many instances of this. There is, however, nothing wrong with that, it is quite normal.

    3) If you look at the actual wording given by the HAF and Rajan Zed it is eminently cordial and respectful. They’re not demanding the editor of newsweeks head on a platter as many other groups might.

    4) Anyone moaning on a board such as this will not change anything. HAF will continue to exist and complain as will anyone else who cares to. Better get used to it.

    5) Regarding the discussion of the humanist approach, I think we can all probably agree that in an enlightened society this would be the best way. We are all people, we are all the same, let’s all just get along. But do we live in that type of society? And if we do not, what is the best way to deal with it? Do we turn the other cheek and let other groups run over each other and us? Do we take a stand and fight for our beliefs? I think that is a difficult question to answer. I’m sure someone’s going to point to Gandhi and say how he handled it. But there is one interesting that perhaps alot of people don’t know about Gandhi and that is that he was vehemently against Christian missionaries and understood the perniciousness of their intent to undermine the very fabric of Indian society. So despite his peaceful outlook he still understood the importance of taking a stand where necessary.

  21. I guess we are “priveleged” in the sense that we can “afford” not to commercialize our spirituality. There are excellent philosophical arguments that are perfectly aligned with Hinduism which motivate not commercializing spirituality.

    But we should also not swallow the PC white guilt kool-aid that the “natives” are somehow “more in tune with nature/God” than we are. That the “East” is full of humble folk practicing authentic mysticism while the “West” is full of materialistic imperialists that need to forever wear a scarlet letter around their necks to make up for this thing called “white privelege”. These ideas have been debunked a long while ago. Nobody really believes that the West is full of imperialists (except some random post-colonial theorists) because the simple matter of fact is that imperialism is not a policy pursued by any major power any more. Post-colonialism/deconstructionism/et cetera seems to mostly be a bunch of baloney. And it is not clear why ideas from post-colonial theory should matter all that much in issues related to Hinduism since America has never had colonial engagements with India.

  22. Indians can be prickly and overly sensitive, especially outside of India, or within India in reaction to criticism from someone they see as “different.” However, perhaps one should also take into account the tone with which one gives criticism to others. PG, I think you have the best intentions, and I’ve known people like you in India, but your tone can be off-putting and perhaps that’s why your suggestions/criticisms don’t meet with wholehearted approval from those around you in India, even if they probably think some of the same things you do. No one really wants to be saved and that’s the tone that even some well-meaning critics of India have. That whole cultural relativity/PC-Kool Aid thing works both ways. Under our microscope, you also fall short. You can criticize the way things are done in India, but we can criticize you for bringing up commercialization in India as some sort of reason why Hindu-Americans or any other Indian shouldn’t complain or question or discuss, in what I feel is rather a mild manner so far, the manner in which other cultures use our symbols. Otherwise, Americans, especially, say, American women, shouldn’t feel aggrieved about how they are sometimes portrayed in foreign cultures not used to them. I mean, it’s not as if American culture hasn’t portrayed the American woman in a less-than-flattering light, right? So, Americans, especially minority Americans, really shouldn’t complain about how they are depicted in foreign cultures.

    Indians, however, are hardly alone in their sensitivity to criticism. Just read the The Guardian blogs or the comments section of any major British newspaper. Their “liberal” views and self-criticism suddenly become “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves” the minute you attack Great Britain over something (try telling them the Falklands is not really a part of Great Britain. hahaha) . Check out the comments between the Europeans over the whole FIFA awards of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar – lots of insults flying around and lots of nationalistic Europeans taking potshots at one another. All very tribal. Check out the comments over the wikileaks. Or check out any cricket/sports-related board. All very tribal, with the Anglo-Saxon faction as nationalistic, thin-skinned and pompous and superior as any prickly Indian.

    And one wonders why those who question the HAF then post on sites like Sepia Mutiny or other blogs with a narrow focus. This is a tribal board, after all. Surely, these types of blogs are antithetical to universal humanism or whatever the term is? I gather it’s because they have more respect for Hinduism than other religions and therefore hold it to higher standards.;)

    P.S.: Not bothered by this Newsweek cover but one can understand the instantaneous trepidation one feels on seeing such an uncommon symbol on the cover of a major Western publication. And these things work both ways. If Hindus shouldn’t be worried about the commercialization/use of their symbols in the West, then Westerners should stop their sense of instant trepidation whenever they see a swastika (like that museum in California that took down a Hindu display because of criticism from a couple of women and then put it up again) used in a religious manner in the West.

  23. “Okay, I’ll bite. Why is their approach (focus on Hindu rights) better than mine (focus on human commonalities) for serving that group of people as well as others?”

    Why is there a need for SALGA? Why is their focus on the rights/issues of specifically South Asian Gays and Lesbians better than a focus on human commonalities for serving that group of people as well as others? Aren’t there enough national or more international, more universal gay rights organizations they can belong to?

    How is this:

    “The South Asian Lesbian & Gay Association of New York City (SALGA) serves to promote awareness, tolerance, acceptance, empowerment and safe spaces for sexual minorities and people of all gender identities, who trace their heritage to South Asia or who identify as South Asian…Our mission is to enable community members to establish cultural visibility and take a stand against oppression and discrimination in all its forms. “

    all that different from this:

    “The Foundation interacts with and educates leaders in public policy, academia, media and the public at large about Hinduism and global issues concerning Hindus, such as religious liberty, the portrayal of Hinduism, hate speech, hate crimes and human rights.”

    One doesn’t have to agree with everything either organization makes a big deal about, but they are both doing essentially the same thing: looking out for their own specific corner. Both are concerned about their cultural visibility. Neither speaks for everyone like them.

    • Both are concerned about their cultural visibility.

      Although I have my sympathies wrt to this question :) this characterization is in fact not true. SALGA is not predominantly focused on cultural visibility while HAF is.

      I’ll have to think more about the rest of your point, but I think answering it would require greater understanding of both organisations. One possible response is, if you participate in either organisation, to what extent can you retain and are you encouraged to pursue more universalist concerns.

  24. You’re conflating community and communal identity.* A community is something that materially exists. It involves interactions, exchanges, etc. Going to the store. etc. It can even be virtual (like this one). Real human connections and whatnot. And yes, there is such a thing as a faith community, a real level. it’s a church or a mandir or an e-mail list or other such things in which people talk to one another and interact. It’s not as divorced as ‘we have the same identity and therefore we are part of the same thing and should look at the world within the same way’ That idea is an absurd way to define a community and you would have a hard time explaining PTA groups with it and I would hope flies in the face of how most people experience life.

    On the other hand, a communal ‘community’ is, in fact, a subnational identity group, often based on faith, and uses the ideology to get people to act as if what are weak ties are actually strong ties. It’s a rigid identity group way of looking at the world and you can easily extend the characterization to ‘communities’ based on other identities. By encouraging you to overly privilege the identity the communal group is focused on, it asks you to set aside your other concerns, as well as the concerns of others. it’s this second attitude that I’m arguing against, not that people should never have any affiliations with anything, ever.

    Even if I wanted to argue that, I wouldn’t be able to – there’s a reason I am invested in talking about Hinduism, and on a South Asian American blog, after all ;)

    • If you don’t like the terms I’ve used, then feel free to substitute other ones, but the substance here is what I’m actually arguing. The comment just above the one you posted will also be useful.
  25. whether they will work with, respect and recognize people from all other faith groups, etc; I have had some (very limited) interaction with them, and I would say – of course, they would.

  26. The Abrahamic god is an angry god – he said so himself.

    Krishna on the otherhand……. well, he likes to have fun.

    Nietzsche said, “I would believe in a god who could dance”.

    the best point you have made to date PG

  27. Overall, the human race is less intelligent than we give credit. Subtract a few key individuals, and we would have never discovered governing equations, electromagnetism/ magnetic fields, the combustion engine, quantum physics, and nuclear power. Instead, the average person is busy squabbling over imaginary invisible men who is broke and needs more money and followers.

  28. PG :

    let me add that I too think that it sounds like you have good intentions, but it is unclear to me that your sarcasm (‘Mera Bharat Mahan!’) directed at the people around you is justified. If you took a look around you in U.P., you would find a great deal of poor people. They deserve your sympathy, not your sarcasm.

  29. PG’s comments may sting sometimes but they are often brutally honest. I doubt if anyone born and raised in India would disagree with her observations regarding the crass commercialism rampant at the sacred Hindu sites. Go to any “teerth sthan” or “dhaam” (=religious sites) and your experience will be anything but religious and spiritual. That said, PG for all her Indian street wisdom and devotion to Krishna, via the essentially non-Indian route of ISKCON I might add, completely misses the essence of Hindu religion.

    Hinduism is a privately practiced religion, dear PG, not a congregational religion like Christianity or Islam. The communion with God occurs in the home, not in the temple, whether the shrine at home is a simple shelf in the bedroom stocked with idols and incense or in a separate room called “puja ghar.” The truly religious Hindus spend hours doing puja in the sanctuary of their homes, whereas the religious Christians do the same in a public place, called a Church, at an appointed time, called a service. There are no Hindu equivalents unless we are talking about NRI Hinduism, which has become public and congregational only due the need to adapt to local conditions.

    As tranquil and serious Hinduism is in private, its public façade is a riot and a public nuisance violating all municipal ordinances. However, taken with a grain of salt, the mardi gras aspect of Hinduism can be a lot of fun. Its festivals are marked by colorful processions, loud music, crazy people high on “bhang,” starkly naked “nanga babas” at the famous “melas,” bloody animal sacrifices during Durga Puja in Bengal and money grubbing holy men in Banaras on any day of the week.

    But that’s the genius of this religion. Hinduism’s business end, if you could call it that, is almost clandestine and inside people’s hearts and homes, which is probably the only reason why it survived the Islamic invasion. But Hinduism’s public side is a huge Ras Lila, dear Pardesi Gori. To berate its spectacle, and yes its crass commercialism, is to completely miss its dual personality. I don’t mean to suggest for a second that Hinduism is more layered than other religions. It is merely different, in that the spiritual part is private, not public. That’s what the non-desi converts to Hinduism need to learn to appreciate. Applying Judeo-Christian standards to Hinduism will only lead to disappointment.

    Since I have acknowledged PG’s usually accurate and honest reporting about the real India, I think I have earned the right to make one simple observation about ISKCON. Let’s be frank. It has copied the public spectacle practices of Hindu religion pretty well to serve its needs. I am old enough to remember the times when the Hare Krishna proselytizers, a practice absolutely alien to Hindu religion, were busy working the airports around the world and their ubiquitous street dancing and unlicensed food vending were a major headache to local cops. I, a confirmed Hindu who grew up in India with the best of Hindu traditions thanks to my now deceased mother, have had the displeasure of being talked down and preached to by some white guy with a shaved head who just recently found religion, in this case Hindu religion. So PG, please don’t criticize Hinduism as you witness it on the streets of India. It is as crazy as ISKCON’s street spectacles. But Hinduism’s heart and soul resides at home as I am sure your faith’s does as well.

    As for the multi-armed takeoff of Kali, it is one of the oldest and most shop worn visual cliches in the western media. When Mahatma Rice first did it in the early seventies – yeah, I am old – we desis were outraged. I don’t think this gimmick even refers to Hinduism anymore.

  30. Hello Dr.A,

    While the courtesy of your tone is no doubt appreciated, in the spirit of good conversation, I would also note that you have not addressed the specific points I made above in response to your points here: http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/006374.html#comment-280257

    You say you’re not mounting an argument against haf, but in effect, you’re attempting to delegitimize its efforts to advocate on issues of great interest to the hindu american community, and intimate that somehow other hindu groups may, potentially, depending on the weather and the time of day, be more appropriate to occupy the space–but don’t say which ones. You also don’t answer why haf is illegitimate but cair and isna legitimate, which I’ve asked you above.

    You mention that in spite of being a hindu oriented group, haf should be more universalist, but haf has even spoken out against attacks on mosques in the united states (at the height of the park51 debate no less) and has conducted significant multi-faith outreach. Again, I direct you to their website where all of this is available:

    http://www.hafsite.org/media/pr/hafconcernedovercamosqueattack

    it even took a view against the offending Danish cartoons at the height of the controversy: http://www.hafsite.org/issues/interfaith?q=/media/pr/20060207_muslim_cartoon

    So explain to me why this doesn’t meet your standards for universalism (a necessary criterion in your scheme of speaking for an entire faith group), but cair and isna do. You also did not address how in your view it is not ok for faith groups to take offense if they inject their faith into politics (ostensibly deriding haf) but give a free ride to the OIC and its proposed UN resolution on blasphemy. So does that make OIC illegitimate by your touted standards?

    Additionally, progressivism was ostensibly important to you, but you ignore the very prominent statement haf made on homosexuality and its call to prevent ostracism by the community of homosexual hindus and to treat them as legitimate fellow travelers on the path to liberation. Explain to me why that, as you wrote above, doesn’t make haf “progressive enough” in your scheme, but why other groups are.

    You speak of the textbook controversy, but do not afford any specifics as to why their overall complaint was illegitimate. Indeed, Indian history has long been subject to the caste, curries, and cows narrative, and the suit, if anything, encourages a more rigorous application of the historical method to long disputed theories such as AIT (effectively debunked now and qualified as such in the CA textbooks due to the efforts of the two consulting hindu groups–HAF merely sued on their behalf). There were 170 edits that were proposed, many of which I did not agree with, many which I did, but how is haf’s legitimacy called into question on that basis? AIT’s disputed nature is not rooted in haf’s perception, it’s rooted in scholarly fact. Even witzel has set it aside in favor of Migration and Max Mueller himself said that he did not mean to say Aryans were a race. There were even references (in the original textbooks) to buddhism and jainism serving as “civilizing forces” on hinduism, calling into question whether equal respect was being afforded to hinduism. So even your textbook contention becomes invalid–unless you’re saying whether HAF must consult with each and every of the almost 2 million hindus to see what they think of each and every edit proposed not by HAF, but by two hindu groups consulting with the CA state board of education.

    You say they focus on “upper class” concerns (something which I imagine is your slant attempt at injecting caste), but textbooks and perceptions of yoga are important. How hinduism is taught in american schools directly impacts how hindus and their children are perceived. These aren’t upper class concerns, but community wide concerns. Most of all, the yoga efforts represent how important it is to protect one’s heritage from appropriation. From numerals to steel to astronomy, hindu accomplishments have long been derided by colonial theorists as “imported” and the product of invasion (as though all other major civilizations were somehow free of invasion and conquest). You would think that a dedicated “postcolonialist” such as yourself could recognize that and respect these efforts to speak out. That’s what advocacy groups do–they advocate. Additionally, whether upper class or lower class, hindu rights being violated around the world is a community wide concern, but you conveniently ignore it here, in spite of their annual report on human rights. There is nothing remotely classist about their efforts, and your point on that count truly does smack of disingenuousness.

    By stating that they have to ask you opinion on all matter under the sun before they can represent all hindus, you have set a higher burden for them than other pan-faith organizations. Do cair and isna have to ask ever single muslim American/north American what islam means to them before they can speak on their behalf? do they have to get permission from individual shias and ahmeddiyyas who disagree with the sunni majority? do they have to get permission from irshad manji?

    Ultimately, though you couch your words in gentle tones, in effect you are ignoring the specifics (due to time as you claim–though I imagine no matter how pressed, you could have sufficiently addressed at least one specific to attempt to demonstrate this even if on the go). In light of that, it is only natural for readers to suspect disingenuousness, however much caution you deem it necessary to advise, and especially in light of your dubious–and unsubstantiated–claims to accuracy…

    Best Regards,

    SW

  31. I’ll think about it. You gave a lot of material to sift through and wrote a good comment. Thanks for that.

    To quickly answer your four points – there really haven’t been any openly progressive Hindu groups and the trajectory has been as such of Hindu-American politics: http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/sept_oct_09_natrajan. As such, a lot of the issue from my evident ignorance (!) is one of trust and HAF hasn’t won me over yet. If it assists any, I dislike and mistrust the current Pope.

    There is the basic issue of what are just statements / website text and what is real and then there is the fairly mixed bag they present. for every sympathetic statement for a mosque attack, there is the harsh text about pakistan which may be read to imply that global islamist terrorism originated in pakistan! and in the middle of the relatively tolerant statement on lgbt rights, there is the reiteration of the importance of saptapadi in hindu weddings. Maybe the saptapadi things is old news at this point – dunno. didn’t read the cartoon thing – not sure what to make of the whole cartoon thing anyhow.

    Regarding cair – i don’t really see the relevance aside from the fact that CAIR is frequently brought up on this website by people who want to draw attention to alleged links to islamism that never are convincingly proven. Beyond that, CAIR is not speaking for me in any way, and the people I met from CAIR in New York were very nice to me and no one has convincingly ever argued to me that CAIR as an institution was somehow responsible for promoting violations of human rights. I don’t have much else to go on.

    I do think the context they operate in is FAR different though – islamophobia has more damaging effects and is more deepseated in the american consciousness right now. there are not referenda passing in oklahoma to prevent the alleged imposition of hindu law, nor have there been targeted deportations of hindus, nor have people from OTHER religious been killed for ‘looking’ Hindu. In that Islamophobia is a form of religiously inspired hatred and xenophobia and racism, sure it is part of something that threatens hindus, sikhs, etc., in the same way that racism directed against black people and latinos in the end affects even model minorities. However, it remains, at best, different facets of the same thing.

    But if you want a model for a decent group based on a faith community, i like American Friends Service Committee. At least from what I know of them. I mentioned a few other ones above too that have had nice ideas or played an important role or been more useful than not.

    I don’t think that any faith based group, including churches, should ever arrogate the right to speak on behalf of their whole communities unless there is at least the semblance of democracy in the group. And trust me, this applies to my opinion of NGOs as a whole. But there’s no reason that faith based groups can’t have a democratic ethos. Just most of them don’t – as most identity based groups and most NGOs in general don’t. The point, though, is that this isn’t a competition between the perfect and the good – for the most part, there is only the fairly decent, the mediocre and the bad in this world, at least as far as concerns anything connected to industry. Open Society Institution is probably as close as I’m going to get to a progressive funder and that’s based on however much money made betting on the markets.

    as for double standards, i think you miss one of the central driving points of why i’m bothering to respond. The original comment (which i didn’t make) was about discomfort with HAF speaking for us. And I agree with that. I don’t like anyone speaking for me. I barely like speaking for myself. I’ve argued about religion sporadically with priests my whole life, including at Kalighat when dude tried to convince me being paid for being a tout was a divine right.

    But at least those people were endearing or made for good stories, I was at least a little younger, and I often enjoyed the conversation. On the other hand, if I were not more or less Hindu, I probably would not care at all about HAF or any Hindu based activities in the U.S. But I am. And so it affects me and I feel a responsibility to pipe up. And presumably this is what HAF wants, no? They want Hindu people in the U.S. to identify themselves as Hindu and talk about Hinduism. Mission accomplished. That’s what I’m doing. And as such, I don’t think they should be weighing in, in court, on the contents of textbooks, and in the process helping to bring one of the most annoying features of Indian politics to the U.S. Nor am I enthused about the reclaiming yoga for Hinduism campaign. It frankly seems like a waste of time. I also think that if they’re deeply interested in human rights, they should be very careful about their approach if they’re sincere- perhaps no one is more responsible for international inattention to religious discrimination against Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan than people who have made arguments about it but solely for their own narrow purposes, thereby making it less and less likely that anyone else would talk about it.

    In terms of specific groups from other faiths, I would be happy to lay into one or more groups if I knew you – just not on a public board for no particular reason. However, the point I started with is still relevant – and this relates to what I said to Razib above. My points are coming from a perspective developed in a world in which communal argumentation, thinking, and political organization is FAR too common and so implicit in that is the recognition that different groups are contributing to this throughout. Some of theses groups are doing it inadvertently. others do it in the name of ethnicity rather than religion (or sometimes both). It happens in many faiths, and throughout the world. You can’t understand where I’m coming from without understanding this aspect to what I’m saying.

    Anyway, thanks very much for the conversation but I have to call it quits at this point. Apologies for not being more informed and good luck!

  32. hey friends in my point of view

    max the terrorists to attack the world comes from this muslim cast and religion

    we always here this stuff in news iran iraq pakisthan afganisthan etc are the best exams where this terrorists trained well and developed

    i donno what they are up to and y they planning to attack every country and kill every 1

    we should find the reason y they are becoming like this

    sooo think positive and peace is better than war soo obama should think this 1st before doing any crazy stuff which results in world war.

    http://www.mintrio.com

  33. what pious ruminations about speaking across difference and being critical of stereotypes and essentialism from someone who racially evaluates women’s sex appeal in a public forum and professes to have difficulty hearing criticisms from “south asian women” because they remind him of his mother.

    but other than that, well said.

  34. All this talk just seems so unnecessary.

    Hindu identity is very weak among American Hindus as compared to Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians. The only reason it somewhat persists is because of immigrants and the parents of second-genners.

    All this will go away when the immigrants stop coming and first-gens finally die off and then we’ll still have four groups, “Indians” and then Indian Muslims/Sikhs/Christians.

    The HAF is like the Catholic League, just a bunch of guys in a basement claiming to talk for a large group of people, some who like it that way, and some who don’t.

    /thread

    • Perhaps that is true but then it is up to you (if you are Hindu and care) and other Hindus to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Perhaps that is what HAF is trying to achieve. A noble aim at the very least.

      Anyway, even if the other religions dominate the physical plane, we Hindus will always have eternity! It ain’t called Sanatan Dharma for nothing, you know!

      What would you rather have – a bit of squabbling over a small bit of illusional “reality” or the entire universe for all eternity.

      Peace out.

  35. I know this has been done to death – the only thing that really offends me is Rajan Zed commenting on everything ‘Hindu’. And I think “pillaging serious spiritual doctrines” is not as bad as it sounds.

    AND Hinduism in general – in the US or here in India – is too chilled out to care, but I guess being easily offended is a necessary precondition for being a spokesperson for any religion?

  36. You might care a little more if you had grown up as a minority in another country. But then again, you might not.

    What’s funny is that someone who is actually trying to stick up for you and your religion is what offends you. The guy who’s got your back is somehow wrong. But the guy who takes the p*** out of you is OK? I just wonder what is wrong with Hindus sometimes that they would back up the very people who mock them and get their noses out of joint about people who are trying to stick up for them. It’s amazing, really. Or maybe not – perhaps that explains why India allowed itself to be ruled by, basically anyone who felt like it, for a thousand years.

  37. You’re conflating community and communal identity.* A community is something that materially exists. It involves interactions, exchanges, etc. Going to the store. etc. It can even be virtual (like this one). Real human connections and whatnot. And yes, there is such a thing as a faith community, a real level. it’s a church or a mandir or an e-mail list or other such things in which people talk to one another and interact. It’s not as divorced as ‘we have the same identity and therefore we are part of the same thing and should look at the world within the same way’ That idea is an absurd way to define a community and you would have a hard time explaining PTA groups with it and I would hope flies in the face of how most people experience life.

    Read more Hobsbawm.

    The entire world order is based on the assumption of the validity of “imagined communities.” “Imagined” doesn’t mean “fake,” it just means abstracted. People are capable of interacting with an entities larger than the maximally sized community that human cognition can handle (generally tops out at about 150-200 people) precisely through this abstraction. A “faith community” doesn’t stop at one specific church group. Where do you think the concept of “christendom” came from?

  38. Shankar M, I DO have the poor people in mind. The poor people in the area I am currenty at are suffering due to the so-called “progress” that is being made here. I would like to go into details but it would take time that I don’t have right now.

    Just the other day I was at an “environmental meeting” convened to address issues in the area. Some big names were there – Vandana Shiva (of whom I’m a fan) being one of them. Most of the people at the meeting were not locals and despite having good intentions (I hope), were completely out of touch with the ground realities of the area. These are city people who want to see the area cleaned and greened because they are EMBARRASSED that parts of India are like this. Instead of going to the locals and inquiring from them what they want and need and getting their input, they want to go ahead full force with “progress” that is not congruent with the socio-economic realities of the area, what to speak of the unique culture.

    I have also found such attitudes to be prevalent here. So many times comments are written regarding “poverty porn” and how firganis write articles about elephants and cows in the streets, snake charmers, etc. It appears to me that “modern” Indians are EMBARRASSED of these ground realities of India.

    Sure, those snake charmers can be annoying when they follow you around with that cobra in the basket but guess what – that is their way of making a living! At one point in time they were hired entertainers. Now their trade has been relegated to almost begging but what they do is nothing to be ashamed of.

    Cow herding has been the backbone of Indian economy since the days of Krishna.

    Elephant raising and training is also a bonafide means of earning a living.

    There’s no reason to be embarrassed over these things and expect firganis to write articles about INFOSYS and the pubs of Bangalore.

    Believe it or not, most tourists to India do not come here for the the great pubs and nightclubs. We can get that anywhere.

    India has something other to offer than shopping malls, coffeee shops and “discos”.

    If I were a poor Indian I would feel deeply hurt that my fellow Desis are ashamed of me and don’t want my story to be told.

    As far as Hindusim being a religion only to be practiced alone and in one’s home – who’s fooling whom? Mandirs have been built here for thousands of years. Hinduism has a very strong congregational history.

    Haryana se, PG

  39. Mandirs have been built here for thousands of years. Hinduism has a very strong congregational history.

    A mandir is not a congregational site. A public place of worship =/= congregation in the sense that Abrahamic religions work.

  40. Yoga Fire, I didn’t say it works in the exact same way that Abrahamic religions work. If it did, I would not have converted.

    But the community of disciples of specific gurus are a type of congregation. The guru-sisya culture has been existent in South Asia for thousands of years. Disciples have congregated in the guru’s ashram for thousands of years.

    Anyway, I have just finished eating dinner with a family here in which the young bahu sat and ate while her husband served the entire family – including his bibi and bibi’s saas (his mother) – fresh hot rotis from the rasoi. And the patriarch (husband’s father), waited til all of us – including his wife and women in his family ate, then he ate. First time ever experience. All my previous experiences have been the bahu serving everyone – including serving the men first.

    So I’m “coming around” to the idea of marrying a Desi guy afterall – any takers?

    And can you cook?

  41. @maybeso

    I’m probably one of a handful of Hindus in the 18-25 age group who actually identifies as Hindu and knows enough about it to defend it or answer questions if people have any.

    But I’m not so myopic about the world to believe that even a majority of my “co-religionists” in my age group (or more likely, people who happen to have been born to parents with the same religion) are like me.

    Hinduism, at least in this country, is never going to be as reactionary as Islam. Never. It’s just not going to happen.

    These types of articles are not controversies.

  42. But nobody wants it to be as reactionary as Islam. Pointing things out to people in a calm, polite manner is nothing like what other religions do. You even had an extreme Christian group that wanted to burn the Quran and nobody thinks Christianity is full of nutters. What HAF is doing is not even close to that. Nor is it anywhere near what the extreme Islamist groups do. Gently reminding people that “hey we’re here too, have some respect for us as well” is fine, in my opinion.

    Like alot of people have said, it didn’t offend me either, but I’m glad someone is at least pointing out the significance of using that imagery. If nothing else, people might learn a bit more about Hinduism.

  43. But the community of disciples of specific gurus are a type of congregation. The guru-sisya culture has been existent in South Asia for thousands of years. Disciples have congregated in the guru’s ashram for thousands of years.

    The thing is, Hindu holy men don’t work out of an “office,” so the idea of a “Church” doesn’t really exist. The mandir is where the Gods of that temple live and there are priests to take care of them. When you go to the mandir you are going specifically for an audience (darshan) with that God. But your spiritual identity isn’t really bound to that mandir. This is totally different from the notion of congregational worship where the church actually is the spiritual heart of the community. Even the guru relationship is more analogous to a classroom than a congregation. Nowadays the notion of a guru is very specifically reserved for spiritual education because the education system has been formalized and Westernized, but historically the guru is just your teacher. He could be teaching you religious concepts, he could also be teaching you how to weave baskets, play the flute, or club people upside the head with a mace.