Hinduphobia, a form of prejudice and discrimination against Hindus, is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, Hindus have been subjected to hatred, often fueled by centuries-old tropes. However, what is truly alarming today is the emergence of a new playbook, with social media platforms serving as a breeding ground for rekindling old hatreds.
Hindus in the US are a highly diverse population, hailing from countries such as India, Nepal, Malaysia, Fiji, Trinidad, Guyana, and others. As Hindus establish roots in America, they also espouse a vision of the country founded on the principles of pluralism and mutual respect.
Hinduism, also known as “Sanatana Dharma,” is the oldest practicing religion and the third largest in the world. By recognizing the positive influence and contributions of Hindu Americans, we can work toward fostering a society that embraces diversity and rejects baseless prejudices and stereotypes.
With approximately 3.3 million Hindu Americans, their contributions extend far beyond that of a small immigrant community comprising just 1% of the total population. Hindu Americans have achieved notable distinctions, with individuals winning Nobel prizes in various disciplines, including the prestigious Fields Medal in Mathematics, bringing esteem and fame to the United States. Hindu children consistently excel in academic competitions, such as the Spelling Bee championships, science talent scholarships, and Math and Science Olympiads, and gain admission to top universities. Some have even become astronauts.
Moreover, many CEOs and C-level executives of leading companies in technology, finance, media, healthcare, education/universities, government, and the military are of Hindu origin. Hindus have demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, from launching businesses in Silicon Valley to managing small enterprises in local neighborhoods, hotel chains, and more.
The medical field also showcases the substantial presence of Hindus, with close to 1 million physicians of Indian origin (mostly Hindus) in the United States, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the total doctor population in the country. Hindus are widely acknowledged as exemplary and contributing citizens in the United States, consistently showcasing their dedication and competence.
Notably, crimes committed by Hindus are among the lowest in the United States and worldwide, highlighting their commitment to lawfulness and social harmony.
In addition, the strong connections Hindus in the US maintain with India and their ancestral homeland enable them to foster significant strategic relationships. The Hindu community facilitates the exchange of ideas, talent, expertise, and multinational corporate presence between the United States and India.
These achievements and contributions by Hindu Americans underline their significant presence and impact on various aspects of American society, further emphasizing the importance of countering Hinduphobia and promoting a climate of understanding and respect for all communities.
Caste Con – An initiative by Caste Files
To dispel the misinformation about caste and stop its planned weaponization against one of the most successful American Communities, Richa Gautam of Caste Files organized an event, CasteCon, attended by over 300 participants in person and many more online.
This grassroots effort was supported by a number of speakers and by multiple organizations in the USA. They invited diverse international experts on this topic of colonial caste and race paradigms that instill divisiveness generated due to these discourses. “We are focused on dissolving of caste consciousness instead of perpetrating it further on new generations in the United States,” said Richa.
She adds, “Caste, Dalit, and Adivasi are colonizers’ classification of India’s population and are not from Hindu scriptures. Using these terms in laws in Seattle, Oregon, and California displays a devious attempt at recolonization. It also inflicts colonial wounds onto innocent, upcoming generations of Indian Americans. Let’s dissect, dispel, disprove, and dissolve caste consciousness.”
She concluded by stating, “No one has asked me about caste ever in the USA until recently when spates of resolutions and policy were introduced in the USA along with media narratives. Because upcoming generations have no idea of the issues that exist within the Asian paradigm so there is no need to import alien and colonial concepts into the US and seed identity politics here among the Indian Americans.”
Utsav Chakrabarti, Executive Director of HinduACTion said, “The key players involved in SUPPORTING SB 403 have demonstrably exhibited common cyber social behavior: Shared hatred for Hindu religion and American Hindu and Indian American communities. -a geopolitically motivated desire to target India and Indian Americans. Their association with/sympathy for known terrorist movements and banned organizations should bring into question the real objectives behind SB 403.”
He added, “The connection of groups and individuals that PROMOTE the ideological narrative that supports SB 403, to organizations that are linked with the Pakistan Army and its intelligence apparatus, has all the hallmarks of an ‘influence operation.”
An Old Hatred with a New Playbook:
Former Attorney General John Farmer reminds us that Hinduphobia is not a recent development. Drawing from the example of the Dotbusters gang in the 1980s, it becomes evident that Hindus have long been targeted using deeply ingrained stereotypes. However, what sets the present situation apart is the utilization of these tropes within the context of social media. The online sphere offers a vast platform for disseminating and amplifying hate speech, making it imperative to address this issue proactively.
Online Hate and Real-World Violence:
Extensive research by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) has demonstrated a concerning correlation between online hate speech and real-world violence. As observed in past instances of antisemitic and anti-Asian attacks, when the intensity of social media hate speech reaches a “fever pitch,” it has the potential to manifest in physical harm against targeted communities. Law enforcement agencies must unite and counter this hate to prevent further escalation before it translates into tangible harm.
Hinduphobia: Understudied, Dismissed, or Denied:
Despite the violent and genocidal implications associated with Hinduphobia, it remains largely understudied, dismissed, or even denied in the public sphere. This prejudice is now exploding across various web communities, spanning mainstream and extremist platforms, with millions of comments, interactions, and impressions. Recognizing the severity of the issue is the first step towards effectively combating Hinduphobia.
Extremist Sub-Networks Exploiting Hinduphobia:
Islamists, white nationalists, and other extremist sub-networks have increasingly adopted genocidal memes, tropes, and codewords to spread Hinduphobia. Derogatory terms like “Pajeet” are used to describe Hindus, often in conjunction with violent and murderous fantasies about Indians. Such hate speech surges during key events, such as the appointment of prominent figures. Additionally, scatological references portraying Hindus as backward, dirty, perverted, or unintelligent are utilized as dog whistles to target the Hindu community.
Deliberate Use of Hindu-Specific Imagery and Tropes:
A comprehensive study conducted by Rutgers University revealed the deliberate and persistent use of Hindu-specific imagery, tropes, sacred symbols, practices, and livelihoods in online Hinduphobia. Saffron color, the sacred swastika, Tilak, or Bindi, among others, are employed in derogatory contexts. It is crucial to distinguish Hinduphobia from anti-India sentiment or broader anti-South Asian xenophobia, as they often intersect but require distinct attention. Moreover, the emergence of tropes like “Brahmin Occupied Government” echoes themes of Hindu dominance and control in positions of power, drawing parallels to antisemitic rhetoric.
Hinduphobia persists as a deep-rooted form of prejudice and discrimination, with its manifestations evolving in the digital age. The proliferation of hate speech on social media platforms poses a genuine threat, with the potential to escalate into real-world violence against Hindus. Acknowledging and addressing Hinduphobia, challenging its stereotypes, and fostering inclusivity is essential for creating a safer and more tolerant society. Individuals, communities, and law enforcement agencies must unite to combat Hinduphobia and protect the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Rohit Sharma is a Senior Journalist who has lived in Washington DC since 2007. He currently is a contributor to Dainik Bhaskar, the world's third largest newspaper by readership. His opinion pieces feature on News 9 and The Quint. He has been invited as guest on the BBC, NDTV, India Today, AajTak, Times Now, Republic, Zee news and others. His work has featured in six Indian Languages.