NEW YORK: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has lambasted CNN anchor Reza Aslan for his portrayal of Hinduism, by focusing on the cannibals Aghori nomads in India, in the premiere of the six-part religion themed documentary series ‘Believer’, which broadcast on Sunday.
In an 11-part Twitter statement, on Tuesday, Gabbard, the first practicing Hindu to be elected to the US House of Representatives, wrote:
“While good people across our country are working hard to increase mutual understanding and respect between people of different religions, I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people’s misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism.
CNN on Sunday aired the first episode of a new series called “Believer” hosted by Reza Aslan. For this episode, Aslan apparently sought to find sensationalist and absurd ways to portray Hinduism. Aslan and CNN did not just throw a harsh light on a sect of wandering ascetics to create shocking visuals—as if touring a zoo—but repeated false stereotypes about caste, karma and reincarnation that Hindus have been combating tirelessly. CNN promotional materials and trailers that included a scene showing a group of Hindus under a caption, “CANNIBALS,” perpetuated bizarre and ugly impressions of Hindus and their religion.
CNN knows well that sensational, and even false reporting about religions only fosters ignorance that can lead to terrible consequences. Indeed, Hindus are still reeling after witnessing terrible hate crimes in the last few weeks alone. Our nation celebrates religious pluralism and diversity, and CNN must do more to foster greater respect for people of different religions.
It is my sincere hope that CNN and Aslan will engage with the Hindu community moving forward to resolve the pain and outrage that the “Believer” episode on Hinduism has engendered in the community.”