Indian-American Hindus meet lawmakers, call for protection against Hinduphobia

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Congresswoman Carolyn Bordeaux (D-GA) and Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-GA) with CoHNA leaders Sept. 21, 2022 on Capitol Hill. Photo: courtesy CoHNA

The advocacy organization, Coalition of Hindus of North America, (CoHNA.org) met several lawmakers on Capitol Hill Sept. 21, 2022, with the aim of raising awareness about the community’s contributions to the nation, and call for protection against Hinduphobia.

The ‘National Hindu Advocacy Day on the Hill’ “showcased the core values of the Hindu community, the impact of Hinduism in the US and the richness of vibrant Hindu festivals like Navratri, a celebration of the divine feminine, which is underway this week,” the organization said in a press release.

Representatives from the offices of more than 15 lawmakers (Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen) attended the event on September 21, 2022, where CoHNA highlighted findings from a recent Rutger’s University study by the Network Contagion Research Institute (networkcontagion.us), which appeared to show a spike in anti-Hindu rhetoric on social media, which it warned was an indicator of real world violence, a pattern it has observed with the American Jewish community as well.

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Congressman Drew Ferguson, R-GA, acknowledged the phenomenon saying, “there’s a real problem with Hinduphobia in America. It’s something that is growing.”

Hindu Americans “share the same values of work, creativity, innovation, compassion, love, giving and — quite candidly — love America,” Ferguson added.

Dr. Joel Finkelstein, lead researcher of the Rutgers study, who was part of the delegation, said, “we’ve seen that there’s been a growth of anti-Hindu slurs which are stoking fears of replacement, mixing with antisemitic memes, with other narratives, and hatred shared by white supremacists, by Islamists, and others, which are creating a toxic atmosphere of hostility.”

He also said there was a “growing globally interconnected” pattern of anti-Hindu hate going by the attack of a Hindu temple in Canada and in the U.S. and the real life violence against Hindus in U.K. most recently which Finkelstein described as “low grade pogrom” against Hindus.

Hindus are a vibrant and diverse community, who have contributed significantly to American progress, well-being and democracy, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, CoHNA noted in its press release.

Congressman Hank Johnson, D-GA, echoed these views.

Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) speaks at the “National Hindu Advocacy on the Hill” Sept. 21, 2022, organized by CoHNA. Photo: Courtesy
CoHNA

“We must elevate how much Hindu Americans have contributed to our society whether through yoga, vegetarianism, the arts, or through business enterprises, science and technology, and the medical field,” Rep. Johnson said, noting also that important American leaders and thinkers have been inspired by Hindu values and ways of being, including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who “was one leader who was inspired by the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi, and worked to end segregation and discrimination based on the theory and philosophy of nonviolence.”

“The talent and contributions that Hindus make to American society is universally recognized, and yet ignorance about Hinduism is widespread, and the community has increasingly found itself the target of bigotry and hate,” CoHNA contends.

“Our event is the outcome of recognizing the need for more advocacy and education on behalf of the growing Hindu American community,” said Nikunj Trivedi, president of CoHNA. “Widespread ignorance about Hinduism has a direct impact on the safety and security of our community,” Trivedi said, adding that the organization has witnessed “growing academic bias against Hindus.”

Trivedi said CoHNA had highlighted this academic bias in its first ever congressional briefing a year ago. “Much of the academic bias extends from a limited understanding of the history of colonialism in India, as well as misinterpretations of Hindu scriptures,” Trivedi said.

According to CoHNA, despite Hindu Americans living as students, workers and community members around the country and part of the American tapestry for decades, data shows that “only one in four Americans actually knows a Hindu and according to 2020 Federal Bureau of Investigation data, hate crimes against Indian Americans are up 500%.”

CoHNA has held three congressional briefings on issues impacting the Hindu American community.

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