Fear-mongering about an imagined Hindu threat leads to anti-Hindu violence | Opinion

Fear-mongering about an imagined Hindu threat leads to anti-Hindu violence | Opinion

By Suhag Shukla

Despite this history of attacks on Hindus, we lack an accurate understanding of the prevalence of anti-Hindu attacks. The FBI only recently began tracking anti-Hindu crimes as a separate category.

At the root of these attacks and slurs are centuries-old racist, colonial stereotypes that paint Indians as bizarre, immoral, and cruel. Sometimes the attacks are captured on video, but often they’re more subtle.

On the right, Hindus are considered collaborators in the “great replacement” or seen as heathens. On the left, Hindu American institutions and individuals are demonized, as after the ill-conceived parade float, through fear-mongering about an imagined Hindu threat of global takeover. We’re labeled “Hindu supremacists,” alleged to have dual loyalty to the Indian government, and even falsely accused of funding violence in India.

Social media also fuels physical attacks and is increasingly unsafe for Hindus. A recent report by Rutgers University’s Network Contagion Research Institute found that “derogatory posts toward Hindus [are] present in subcultural social media platforms including 4chan, Telegram, and Gab” and that “anti-Hindu memes, hashtags and slogans [are] growing prolifically across these fringe online platforms as well as Twitter.”

Ironically, though this anti-Hindu disinformation report was released at Rutgers, Rutgers-Newark is often at the center of a spate of this disinformation.

Last year, Hindu students at Rutgers protested against a Rutgers-Newark professor, Audrey Truschke, who joined other scholar-activists in denying that Hinduphobia exists and released a “field manual” that fear-mongers about the dangers of Hindu students espousing “Hindu-centric ideas.”

When she posted on Twitter about an imagined conversation between two deities in which a revered Hindu deity is called a “misogynist pig,” her response to Hindu students feeling targeted was to gaslight them, saying they were doing the bidding of India’s ruling political party. Shocked, Rutgers University’s Student Assembly passed a rare resolution acknowledging the reality of Hinduphobia, and the university administration reportedly made efforts to understand student concerns.

All of this has real-world consequences. Dehumanizing Hindus allows for prejudice and bias to manifest differently, including the hate crimes we witnessed.

But sometimes, acts of hate galvanize change. Political leaders have weighed in, calling out Hinduphobia and the anti-Indian attacks, as have Hispanic leaders and Armenian Americans. And Hindu Americans are increasingly defending themselves by speaking up for themselves or taking those who slander them to court.

Hate and fear are rooted in ignorance. But when social media and even those entrusted to educate are inclined to exacerbate divisions, we must call it out and demand better.

Professor Audrey Truschke, mentioned in this piece, is a co-defendant in a pending lawsuit for defamation and conspiracy to defame filed by the Foundation.

Suhag A. Shukla, Esq. is the executive director of the Hindu American Foundation.

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