March 7, 2017. On Sunday evening, March 5, CNN screened an episode as part of a documentary series, ‘Believer,’ produced by religious scholar Reza Aslan that presented a distorted and biased view of Hinduism. The documentary focused on the rare Aghora sect, which uses ritual practices with physical objects to invoke Divine grace. Although the Aghora way is an important element of the Hindu spectrum, it is far from the mainstream of Hinduism and needs to be understood as an extremely specialized path followed by a small group of ascetics.
By focusing on these practices alone and presenting them in a distorted manner disrespectful of their sanctity, this documentary only further amplifies racist and xenophobic stereotypes about Hinduism. This is the last thing we need after a week in which three Hindus and one Sikh were shot in the US in hate crimes, and when Hindu children already face bullying based on distorted views of their religion.
In his piece on the Huffington Post, Hindu Students Council General Secretary Parth Parihar focuses on the problematic way in which Aslan uses caste to characterize the relationship between the Aghora sect and “mainstream Hinduism.”
In the coming days, Hindu Students Council will also be reaching out to our media contacts to arrange a meeting with representatives of CNN. While we believe our community needs to take more proactive action to ensure that such types of misrepresentations are not put forth in the first place, ensuring that thought-creators understand the implications of their work depicting Hindu practice is also a necessary step to achieving mutual understanding. Only then can a more wholesome understanding of Sanatana Dharma take shape here in the U.S.
Additionally, we will continue to work with our campuses to ensure that Hindu Students Council leaders in universities throughout the U.S. are able to constructively respond to any questions or concerns the larger, diverse communities of their campus may have after watching this documentary. We remain committed to acting on behalf of the community, particularly in the interest of our next generation of Hindu American leaders.
As always, we thank you for your continued support.
Yours in the Service of Dharma,
Hindu Students Council.