HAF on a campaign to dismantle negative image of Hinduism

I Am Hindu American


An Indian American advocacy group is keen on spreading awareness on the raising ‘Hinduphobia’, that has been scaring the community across the world. One of the main perpetrators of this new fear is the popularity of Narendra Modi-led BJP party, which has been force-feeding the idea of Hinduism.

In order to clear this negative image of the Hindus, Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is heading a campaign targeting universities across the US inviting them for a virtual conference titled Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH), scheduled for September 10–12.

The petition to university and college authorities raises concerns over Hinduphobia. “The DGH organizers trade on the prestige of your institution’s name to host, not an academic conference, but a partisan event related to politics in India. The event platforms activists with extensive histories of amplifying Hinduphobic discourse even while denying the existence of Hinduphobia,” the petition states.

A prominent Indian American state senator from Ohio, Niraj Antani, has thanked HAF for leading the charge against this bigotry, in a statement. He has himself strongly condemned hosting the ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva’ conference.

HAF’s executive director, Suhag Shukla told reports that while the organization was not asking that the event be canceled or that scholar-activists from the institutions not be allowed to participate; but institutionally, there was a duty to encourage a diversity of viewpoints alongside academic freedom and free speech.

“We need to be sure that Hindu students, staff, and faculty at each of these institutions are supported through all of this. The recent example of Rashmi Samant, a student from India in the UK, being stripped of her position as the student union president at Oxford University is an overt example of the harm this kind of political activism promulgated by scholar-activists can result in,” Shukla said.

The initial effort by HAF to send emails to university presidents delivered slightly more than 928,000 emails in the span of 48 hours. The response was so robust that HAF was forced to move to collect signatures for a petition to be delivered to the same group of university administrators.

“We support the rights of academics in their individual capacity to engage in political activism concerning India. But leave universities, and by extension university departments, centers, and institutes out because, aside from potentially violating tax-exempt status, it stifles open enquiry,” said Shukla. “Students and faculty must have the freedom to explore questions, posit ideas, and express opinions without being viewpoint policed or fear of being labeled a “supremacist” or “extremist” by the loudest amongst them and then paying a professional price.”

Four universities responded to HAF’s campaign and confirmed their name and logo was used in an unauthorized manner and that event organizer were requested to remove the logos. These include Boston College, Dalhousie University, Princeton University, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

According to HAF: “What was alarming about this event, was the way in which they try to mask the latent Hinduphobia of the stated purpose of the event, the speakers, and the topics. The Hindutva harassment manual actively denies Hinduphobia when there is incontrovertible evidence of anti-Hindu hatred.” The organization has launched a multi-pronged effort on this issue, both national and local in America, which includes an unprecedented response through letter-writing campaigns, petitions and individual stakeholder outreach to students, faculty, alumni and donors of the universities.

“We urge universities to take this entire episode seriously and understand that their faculty irresponsibly and falsely labeling tens of thousands of people exercising their own right to free speech and assembly as “fascists” and “supremacists” is endangering an ethno-religious minority in the US,” Shukla said.