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The Coming Paradigm Shift: Hindu Studies in the USA (© 2007) -Yvette C. Rosser, PhD

 

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The Coming Paradigm Shift: Hindu Studies in the USA (© 2007)

-Yvette C. Rosser, PhD

The study of Hinduism in the West is currently undergoing a metamorphosis. Swadharma, the journal of Harvard’s Hindu Students Association, heralds this emergent movement. Young Hindu-Americans attending schools in the USA have personally lived the paradox acknowledged on the Swadharma website– that even though Hinduism is “the world’s third most practiced religion… one of the world’s oldest continuous traditions… it is perhaps the least understood, especially in the Western world.”

For centuries there has been a tendency in Western theoretical constructs of India to trivialize or ignore the psychological, philosophical, and scientific relevance inherent in Indic traditions. The study of Hinduism in American classrooms continues to be based on centuries of Occi-centric approaches characterized by an attitude of cultural superiority that negates or ignores the deeper meanings of Hindu philosophy, symbolism, and meditative practices. This construct has a long, complex trajectory from Greek and Roman writings about ancient India that stressed the strange and exotic, through centuries of European lust for Indian material goods that led to world conquest in order to find passageways to India. Wild depictions of India can be found from the toga-wearing Mediterranean world on through exoticized, flamboyant images popularized during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and Industrial Revolution. These essentialized images retain their virulence in the present time, where Indian culture is portrayed through a P/C lens: P = pollution, population, poverty + C = caste, cows, curry[1]. These cultural and historical academic assumptions are paradoxically in contraction to stereotypes in the mainstream media about computer geeks from India and fears of outsourcing.

In both ancient and medieval European accounts, Western scholarship often depicted India– its religious and cultural traditions– as primitive and inferior. The denigrating and dismissive aspects of narratives about Hinduism were amped-up and codified through colonial interpretations designed to disempower the subject nation. It is an unfortunate and problematic repercussion that a significant portion of today’s scholarly community continues to adhere to and promote myopic and outdated “flat-earth” views of Indic traditions. Hindu Studies in the USA is one of the last tasty morsels of officially condoned institutional discrimination remaining in the American melting pot—caught in the throat of academia.

For generations, essentialized, exoticized views of Indic traditions and customs went unchallenged. Recently however, numerous Indian-Americans, along with a growing number of Euro-American specialists of Hinduism, have sought to stimulate a rethinking of the standardized derogatory approach. Many Hindu-Americans feel an imperative to engage the U.S. educational system and point out the inappropriate and often incorrect information regarding Hindu heritage and religion. Through this emergent work, Hindu-American citizens hope to shine the light of humanity and realism on the topic, in hopes of dispelling the pervasive stereotypes.

Many of these Hindu-Americans are second-generation citizens of Indian heritage who, in their youth, experienced the bias first hand in textbooks and on television. They feel entitled to raise their children in an environment free from institutional bias directed specifically at their traditions. During the past decade, many Indian-American parents networked and approached their children’s school districts to raise awareness of the perpetuation of exoticized misinformation. Indian-Americans and others concerned with these issues have completed analyses of textbooks, written articles, and become engaged in addressing the issue of misinformation and misrepresentations in pedagogical materials concerning Indic traditions. For example, in February 2003, David Freedholm, wrote an article, Women and Hinduism in U.S. Textbooks, which “reveals that Hinduism is not afforded the same balanced and nuanced treatment with regard to women’s issues given to Christianity and Islam”. Freedholm writes that in Mary Pat Fisher’s popular secondary textbook Living Religions, “Hinduism and Indian society are portrayed as schizophrenic in that they venerate the devi and idealize women on the one hand and on the other treat wives as ‘slaves’.”[2]

It is unfortunate that a biased perspective dominates the treatment of India and Hinduism in secondary World History textbooks. Several studies have described the warped narratives and their negative impact. Hindu-Americans students intimately experience this academic bias when they study about India in mainstream American classrooms. I first noticed the negatively stereotyped depictions of India when I taught high school History in the 1980’s. As a youth I had spent several years living in India and a decade later, while teaching in American secondary classes I found the prescribed textbooks to be filled with sensationalism and faulty analyses. In the 90’s I went to graduate school in hopes of improving the pervasively and perversely negative narratives about India in academia.

My Master’s Thesis was an investigation of the manner in which India had been represented in World History textbooks used in American schools since the 1960’s. That study also surveyed Indian-American students who had studied about India in the USA as well as interviews with secondary Social Studies teachers who were required to teach about Hinduism though less than 5% had ever taken a college course about India. Many experienced teachers find it difficult to explain Hinduism to their students, particularly because the textbooks are terribly confusing. A selection of that study, Stereotypes in Schooling: Negative Pressures in the American Educational System on Hindu Identity Formation, can be found at the Project South Asia website.[3]

The dismissive attitude with which Hinduism is approached fails to recognize that India’s long-marginalized traditions have, during the past few decades, found ready adherents among a significant number of Euro-Americans and other non-Indians living in the West for whom the messages found in Indic traditions are personally compelling and philosophically relevant. Millions of Americans practice Yoga and tens of thousands study meditation– from New Age seekers to corporate executives. Yet in the halls of academia the science of Yoga is not seriously covered and the scientifically documented psychological and physiological effects are seen as inconsequential. The negative treatment of Hinduism that is generated in the Ivory Towers of Western academia influences how the topic is presented in textbooks as well as encyclopedias and reference materials, such as the popular Microsoft Encarta.

A member of the Indian diaspora[4], Sankrant Sanu wrote an analysis of Encarta illustrating the high level of sensationalism and misinformation that characterized the encyclopedic entry about Hinduism in contrast to the treatment of other religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Sanu’s critique presented such an effective analysis that Microsoft replaced the previous essay about Hinduism, written by Professor Wendy Doniger from the University of Chicago, by an essay more sympathetic to the tradition, approaching the topic with similar respect accorded other religions in the encyclopedic entrees. For more information see Sankrant Sanu’s formative essay, Are Hinduism studies prejudiced? A look at Microsoft Encarta.[5]

This essentialized approach full of stereotypes and exoticisms is also found in contemporary American classrooms. In contrast to the textbook treatment of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, a subtly negative approach still forms the basis of textbook treatments of Hinduism. For example, a Social Studies textbook for sixth grade, published by Oxford University Press in 2006, discusses Hindu dietary practices on page 144, where a sarcastic caption “Where’s the Beef?” belittles the Hindu emphasis on vegetarianism, mindlessly taunting Hindus and other vegetarian students with the words of a jingle from an outdated television commercial. That same textbook warns the students that “Durga and Kali are terrible and extremely bloodthirsty forms of this goddess…But, don’t worry because they are not after you”.  On page 87, in the few sentences devoted to a discussion of the Indian epics, the textbook explains that, “Hanuman loved Rama so much that it is said that he is present every time the Ramayana is told.” Then the textbook mocks the Hindu tradition, asking the children to “look around—see any monkeys?”  Eleven year-old students in American classrooms are encouraged by this unnecessary taunt in their textbooks to tease or ridicule their mostly brown-skinned Hindu classmates, “See any monkeys?”

The 6th grade textbook published in 2006 by Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI) makes patronizing remarks on page 148, when the authors state “Cows are sacred animals to Hindus,” and then add that Hindus will not “kill a cow even to feed people who were starving.” The TCI book could have used this opportunity to explain why Hindus revere the cow, and perhaps mention the associated environmental and health benefits instead of simply presenting this centuries-old belief as a some sort of fetish that causes the entire society to go hungry. Obviously, the textbook does not make similar statements about other religions, such as, “Even if a Jew or a Muslim is starving, he will not eat pork.”

Although Hindu-Americans intimately experience this scholarly bias, specialists in fields such as South Asian Studies, Religious Studies, or Indology usually deny its existence. There are very few mainstream American scholars who will even admit that there is a bias. Instead of working to clear away the perceived discrimination, as is the usual anti-racist norm in America’s liberal academy –oddly, scholars often defend those subtle biases– because “that’s the way Hinduism has always been taught in the West”.

Since 1965 when US immigration laws changed, a steady stream of people of Indian descent have become American citizens and successfully made the United States their home, contributing to our economic and educational systems. During these four decades, many Indian-Americans have observed that their heritage is often misunderstood and misportrayed in popular American parlance, and inexcusably, as seen in the examples cited from contemporary textbooks, Hindu beliefs are sometimes mocked in our pluralistic educational system. The field is weighed down with many examples of short-sighted, self-perpetuating, stuck-in-a-rut, colonial-era scholarship which fails to acknowledge the most basic building-block of modernity– that the adherents of Indic, and other non-Western traditions are not primitive foreigners, but are increasingly one’s neighbors, colleagues, students, classmates, and friends. The influence of Hindu-Americans can be seen in medicine, science, technological fields, education, and business, as well as cultural contributions such as food, fashion, Indian authors-in-English, music, film, and most importantly, Dharmic ideals and practices that are being incorporated into therapeutic strategies for self-development and personal growth. The post-colonial interpretation of India’s cultural history was dominated by Cold War politics and Marxist analyses. Those predetermined approaches are giving way to an eclectic, transnational modernity that also intimately incorporates traditional perspectives.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the academic approach to the study of India and Hinduism is undergoing a radical paradigm shift. This natural evolution of the field is currently on the brink of emerging in many American universities and will soon be incorporated in Social Studies textbooks used in secondary classes. Such a theoretical shift is often accompanied by an inevitable backlash from those who staked their careers on the earlier models. Galileo was not exonerated for three hundred years. Hindu-Americans have been vehemently attacked by well-established scholars of Hindu Studies simply for questioning the dominant paradigm.

Whenever a paradigm shifts, there are corollary repercussions. Initially, there may be only creaking sounds of insults hurled as sides are taken and divisions and distinctions appear.  Pressures and tensions widen the growing chasms and old theories tumble as new approaches arise. Such a process can be tectonic, taking centuries or it can happen in an instant. Outdated theories, once dogmatically believed are eventually discarded after being scientifically overturned. As a paradigm shifts the process can be painful to those attached to the previous model. Such an epic paradigm shift is gathering strength in the field of Hindu Studies. Professors of South Asian Studies and writers of textbooks must take note of the momentum and listen for the coming transformation of the field. The groaning and moaning of left-behind paradigms is followed by a whoosh as previous world-views fall into the ocean of historical oblivion. They join a curious collection of flat earth theories and outdated, discredited, race-based Euro-centric pseudo-sciences that justified slavery and colonialism. When new paradigms replace old dogmas it is a natural progression — a liberating release, full of potential.

Throughout history and across many disciplines there has been a reluctance to accept new information. There are many examples of discoveries and inventions that changed attitudes and approaches, such as germs and vaccines, and more recently research in neuroscience in the mid 1970’s that found that the central nervous system could affect the immune system. With that, a new science, psychoneuroimmunology was created. Yet even with continuing research studies confirming these findings, providing further evidence that not only the brain, but what we think and feel affects the immune system, it was not until over twenty years later that textbooks in the healthcare field began to include psychoneuroimmunology and the power of the body-mind connection to affect health.

Likewise, many of the assumptions made by scholars of Indology are being overturned. Beginning with the obvious racism of Sir Thomas Macaulay who stated in the British Parliament in 1833 that a “single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.” Macaulay sought to control India though the destruction of the indigenous educational system.[6] Max Mueller’s theories perpetuated a particular bias later in the 18th century, albeit in a less denigrating voice. His hypothetical theory of an invasion of Central Asian Aryans remains the official basis of Indian historiography, regardless of archaeological, astronomical, and genetic researches that have seriously questioned this theory based primarily on historical linguistics. Regrettably, vociferous professional attachment to the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) precludes orderly and scholarly debate.  The controversy over the Aryan Invasion/Migration Theory is one of the most heated issues in the field. Padma Manian, a history professor at San Jose City College, wrote regarding “how the commonly accepted date of 1500 B.C.E. for the Aryan Invasion of India was proposed.”

It is not based on any archaeological evidence, but instead was based on Friedrich Max Mueller’s linguistic work in the nineteenth century explaining the similarity of the Indo-European languages. In his view, the speakers of the Indo-European languages are descended from Japheth, one of the sons of Noah, the speakers of Hebrew from Shem and Africans and Indian Dravidians from Ham, the least favored of Noah’s sons (Ham and his line were accursed because of Ham’s disrespect of Noah). Since the Flood can be dated from the genealogies of the Bible to be around 2500 B.C.E. and the Vedas were ancient scripture at the time of the Buddha (around 500 B.C.E.), the Aryans (said Max Mueller) likely invaded India and defeated the Dravidian descendants of Ham around 1500 B.C.E. Around the same time, the Israeli descendants of Shem were defeating another of Ham’s descendants, the Canaanites. Max Mueller dated the composition of the earliest of the Vedas to around 1200 B.C.E., allowing the Aryans a few centuries to get settled in India.

Today’s professional Indologists and professors of Hindu Studies have tweaked the model of the Aryans’ invasion of India, and now prefer to refer to the theorized ingress of Aryan culture into the Indian Subcontinent as a series of migrations because the archaeological record does not support an invasion. Nonetheless, the theory based on the arrival of the Aryans and the associated destruction of the Indus Valley Civilization is incorporated into most textbooks and encyclopedias. The Aryan invasion/migration into India is seen as the sole source of the Vedic civilization. Though linguistic in origin, the milieu in which it evolved—dominated by British colonialism and German nationalism—ensured that the AIT soon acquired a political and even biological form, giving rise to such notions as the Aryan nation and the Aryan race.

In a widely used high school World History textbook published by Harcourt[7] in 1990 and in use for over a decade with minimal updates, the section titled “Aryan Invaders Ruled India’s Northern Plain During the Vedic Age”, states that,

About 1500 B.C., a new group of people flooded through the Khyber Pass into India.  They came from the region north of the Black and Caspian seas and spoke an Indo-European language.

A few lines later, the textbook authors tell the students that the “Aryan archers” were “Skillful fighters [who] conquered the Indus Valley and then moved eastward along the Ganges until they controlled the entire northern plain.” There is no mention that the invasion of the Aryan hordes is considered a theory. In most textbooks, it is presented as fact. The process of piecing together the past and incorporating changes in perspectives as new pieces are added is certainly of interest and brings discussion about the ancient past to life.  All too often the processes of historiography are not described in textbooks, depriving the students the power of knowing that our understanding of the distant past can change significantly due to on-going research and scientific breakthroughs.

Padma Manian published a study in 1998, “Harappans and Aryans: Old and New Perspectives of Ancient Indian History” concerning the treatment of the Aryan Invasion Theory as found in history textbooks.[8] Manian summarized her analysis of the numerous college level textbooks she had used during her experiences teaching “World History at colleges in the United States for many years”,

More than half of the textbooks I examined stated that the ancient Harappan civilization was ‘burned, destroyed and left in rubble by invading Aryan-speaking tribes.’ These Aryans were ‘virile people, fond of war, drinking, chariot racing and gambling’ and were also ‘tall, blue-eyed and fair-skinned.’ The defeated natives were ‘short, black, nose-less.’ The victorious Aryans had a ‘strong sense of racial superiority’ and ‘strove to prevent mixture with their despised subjects’. Accordingly they evolved the caste system with the lighter skinned Aryans at the top.[9]

The Aryan Invasion Theory was devised prior to the archaeological discovery of the remains of the sophisticated cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, the destruction of which conveniently provided post facto handy evidence to verify a war-like attack by Aryan hordes. India’s most well known archaeologist Braj Basi Lal, who has published several books that argue against the Aryan Invasion Theory, participated in the excavations with Sir Mortimer Wheeler at Harappa. Along with archaeological data, modern scientific tools such as aerial photography and soil analysis have provided scholars with information about the existence of the Sarasvati River, that prior to its rediscovery in the 20th century had been thought to be mythical. There are numerous references in the Rig Veda indicating that the verses were composed on the banks of the Sarasvati. Scientists have determined that the course of the Saraswati River, which was several miles wide in places, had been disturbed by tectonic activity and by 1900 BCE the river had ceased to flow “from the mountains to the sea” as described in the Rig Veda.

Most Indian archaeologists such as B. B. Lal, S. P. Gupta or S. R. Rao have been arguing for years that the material remains in the Northwest of the Subcontinent do not support the invasion theory. According to the artifacts excavated, the material remains of Indian civilization go back to the end of the last Ice Age, an unbroken continuity for more than 10,000 years. Additionally, the work of geneticists such as L. Cavalli-Sforza, S. Oppenheimer, P. Underhill, and V. K. Kashyap have underscored the fact that there was no significant flow of genes into the Subcontinent after 10,000 BCE. However, despite these technical and scientific confirmations, the majority of Indologists passionately support the Aryan Invasion (aka) Migration Theories. In this context, the famous quote from Max Planck, one of the founders of quantum physics is appropriate,

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.

In the near future, as Indian-Americans become more integrated into American society, many of these old school approaches will cease to be handed down and a new batch of scholars will approach the materials from a more scientific, realistic, and aesthetic perspective.

Many second-generation Indian-Americans have recently become involved in the processes of change– writing articles, attending conferences, creating websites, and working with the curriculum committees of their states. Since they themselves went through the American educational system in high school and college, these second-generation Indian-Americans are keenly aware of the confusing and humiliating nature of the standardized textbook narratives about India. Now that these American citizens are adults with children of their own, they are motivated to solve the pervasive problems that they endured during their own embarrassing experiences in secondary Social Studies classes or while studying sensationalized images of India at the university level.[10]

This emergent and evolving pattern of engaged citizenship arising from the Hindu-American community is a form of all-American activism, well integrated in our democratic system and a healthy part of the immigrant story. Indian-Americans are now pursuing their rights within a pluralistic democracy–requesting respect and inclusion, as have communities of other American minorities through the centuries, such as Native-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Koreans, and Muslims.

Even though many Indo-Americans have personally experienced numerous negative, stereotyped representations of their traditions, there is, nonetheless, a lack of organized, coordinated action to address these issues collectively. Consequently, the faulty, confabulated narratives have been allowed to remain for decades. This may be due to the relatively recent arrival of immigrants from India and their newness in the American activist scene, whereas Jewish groups were formed several generations ago to interface with the sources of anti-semiticism in societal discourse. Muslim-American groups have also, in the past few decades, formed several organizations to work with curriculum committees and textbook publishers.[11] The multi-stranded aspect of the Indian response is also due to the extremely diverse nature of the categories, in which the immigrants from India to the USA classify themselves, ranging from Stalinists to Saffronites, from FOSA to IDFR, from those who quote Shereen Ratnagar to those who quote Dilip Chakrabarti, from Vinay Lal to David Frawley. This extreme diversity exemplifies the inherently multi-dimensional nature of influences from India.

With a population of more than two million, Indian-Americans have become integral to the American melting pot. It is essential that the remaining nasty morsels of officially condoned bigotry are confronted and removed.  The core books of yore, the master narratives, will have to be updated! Descriptions of Hinduism will use Dharmic categories, such as Chakra and Rasa, both fully operational within established Western theoretical standards. Hinduism will no longer be seen as an artifact, but a living tradition. Scholars will develop flexible theories, not caught in a particular era. Indeed, some of the theories will have to be revised, but that is what happens within a living tradition.

This changing paradigm is exemplified by the work of Dr. B. N. Narahari Achar, a Professor of Physics at University of Memphis who used Planetarium Software to determine the date of 3,067 BCE for the Mahabharata War by simulating the astronomical events mentioned in the text. If this date for the Mahabharata War can be shown to be correct it will verify the chronology that is found in the Puranas and other ancient Indian texts. As if to verify this chronology, in his book Cosmos, Dr. Carl Sagan writes,

The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of the modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much larger time scales still.

One unfortunate repercussion of this paradigmatic change is the ferocity with which Hindu-Americans are repeatedly attacked by scholars of South Asian Studies and related fields. The mainstream media picks up these vituperative exchanges and inevitably takes the side of the established scholars and denigrates the Hindu-American activists, who are working to change the paradigm—sometimes referring to them as fundamentalists or fascists and even terrorists. This attitude can be seen in a New York Times article written by Edward Rothstein on January 31, 2005, “The Scholar Who Irked the Hindu Puritans”.[12]

Rothstein first identifies the essence of the academic struggle about “authentic representations of Hinduism”, but then warns his readership that “dark forces” want to control the study of Hinduism in American universities. He describes how “Right-wing Hindu groups… have increasingly asserted their wish, indeed their right, to control scholarship about Hinduism.” In making this evaluation, he quotes only Dr. Wendy Doniger from the University of Chicago and does not refer to the body of work by Sankrant Sanu, Vishal Agarwal, Antonio de Nicholas, or any of the articulate representatives of alternative sides of the debate. Rothstein notes Doniger’s fear that the Hindu “righteous revolution … threatens to become a reign of terror.” What scholars fear the most, regarding the impact of those swarthy dark forces hovering at the edges of academia, is that they will, through processes of Constructive Theology, stealthily remove the masks and alien methodologies created by centuries of outsider theorizing about the Hindu “Other”— changes that fly in the face of their lives’ scholarly works. This paranoid attitude was confirmed by Paul Courtright, who wrote about “Studying Religion in the Age of Terror”, where he implied that his right to study Hinduism is now under threat by Hindu “terrorists”.

These are increasingly dangerous times for scholars who study India. Well-financed and organized groups on the political and religious right want to control the memory of India’s past in ways that suit their own ideological agendas.[13]

The vast majority of Hindu-American critics of the standardized Indological methodology are not right-wingers or fundamentalists. They are articulate intellectuals following the path of Hindu Dharma who have legitimate grounds on which to complain. It is amazing how many mainstream scholars see Hindu critics of Indology as misguided terrorists. Yet when Muslims complain about Islamophobia, they are not attacked by scholars of Middle Eastern Studies as Islamic fundamentalists.[14] Many Jews have cited defamation and it was addressed. On the other hand mainstream scholars have forced every Hindu to either remain silent in the face of Hinduphobia or else run the risk of being attacked as a right-winger.

Hyperlink to Hinduphobia: Online Hatred, Extremism and Bigotry Against Hindus.[15] This study exposes dozens of extremist websites that foment “hate against Hindus and Hinduism”. researched this troubling manifestation of cultural prejudice and racist bias because “if left unchallenged, these websites will perpetuate hatred at best, and breed violence at worst.”  HAF wrote,

Whether by maligning Hinduism as ‘devil-worship’ to promote a fear of Hindus and their beliefs, demeaning Hindu scriptures and deities, or falsifying Hinduism’s teachings and principles in order to claim the religious superiority of other traditions, these individuals and organizations seek to undermine tolerance and pluralism.

Jeffery D. Long, Chair of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, represents the cutting edge of Hindu Studies—the changing paradigm. Professor Long wrote that though Hinduphobia remains unrecognized in this country, “anti-Hindu bigotry is every bit as ugly and dangerous as anti-Semitism or racism, and every bit as present on the Internet.”  Reminding the reader that, “murderous rampages have been inspired by anti-Semitic and racist websites” Long writes that,

[I]t is not necessary for a website to exhort its readers to actual, physical violence for it to lead to such violence. Indeed, hateful speech and false information can create a climate in which such violence is to be expected.[16]

Other scholars, such as Dr. Long, worry about the long term impact of the pervasive problem of Hinduphobia, prevalent not only on the uncontrolled webs of the Internet, but also found in textbooks used in public schools funded by our taxes and sadly even in university Areas Studies departments specifically designed to teach about India. Noting that “hateful misinformation about Hindus and Hinduism is alive and well on the Internet” and that hatred “is inevitably fueled by ignorance, and ignorance is perpetuated by misinformation”, Long asks,

So how long will it be before a crazed gunman attacks a crowded Hindu temple in America, believing, as some of the websites …claim, that Hindus are possessed by demons?  How many children will grow up believing Hinduism is a “filthy” religion, or that Hindus worship the devil? When they grow up, how will such children treat their Hindu co-workers and neighbors?  Will they give them the respect due to a fellow citizen and human being?

Far more injurious than the Internet to the peaceful position of Hinduism as a respected minority tradition in the American religious tapestry, is the injudicious use of biased materials for the academic presentation of Indic traditions. Courses are often taught in a way so as to create a revulsion against Hinduism in the minds of the students. Vishal Agarwal, who has tirelessly engaged manifestations of Hinduphobia reported on the experiences of a second generation Indian-American student who took an introductory class on Hinduism at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the Fall of 2001. The Hindu-American student “was shocked to hear the instructor describe the gory details of Asvamedha in the very first class.” The student explained that the professor stated “the chief queen grasped the penis of the dead horse and thrust it into her vulva.” Needless to say, the Hindu-American student who reported this was stunned and does not plan to take any other classes on Hinduism, “even though he was well aware that there were beautiful things in Hinduism and that the Asvamedha rite was performed very rarely.”[17] With millennia of material culture and mountains of manuscripts found in Indian traditions, it is irresponsible that the professor introduced this obscure and certainly sensationally gross tidbit on the very first day of class. A beginning class on Islam would be unlikely to introduce Muhammad as a child molester who consummated his marriage to a nine year old Aisha, when he was 53 years old; that provocative detail is introduced later embedded within a cultural context.

Agarwal’s research also highlighted a workbook on the Ramayana funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, wherein Sri Rama is depicted as an “Aryan imperialist, Dalit oppressor, misogynist, and racist.”[18] This supplementary material was paid for and designed as a supplementary tool for secondary Social Studies students. Agarwal noted that no responsible scholar would create a workbook on the Koran designed for use in American classrooms that depicted the “Prophet Muhammad as a child molester, terrorism inspirer, infidel killer, temple destroyer, and idol breaker,” adding that “such a depiction would be shocking” and unheard of at the secondary level. The primary complaint of Hindu-Americans is that their religious traditions are deconstructed and trivialized, whereas other minority religious that dot the American cultural tapestry are treated with more circumspect respect in official governmental and academic circles.

Numerous Hindu-Americans have noted that in introductory classes on Hinduism the primary focus is on issues such as the long-outlawed practice of suttee and its relationship to dowry deaths, as well as an almost total focus on the caste system as representative of Hinduism as a whole. A search of course outlines on the Internet revealed that some introductory Hinduism classes in American universities require reading anti-Hindu books such as Why I am not a Hindu by Kancha Illiah. A parallel search of introductory classes on Islam, turned up no examples of the use of Ibn Warraq’s book, Why I am not a Muslim. In this context, an anti-Hindu, evangelical Indian Christian such as John Dayal is often quoted as a secular, objective representative of Indic traditions, which he is not.

It is unfortunate that many Indologists often hold the Indian diaspora in the United States in contempt, whereas in business and technology the achievements, industriousness, and intelligence of the Indian diaspora and their contributions to their adopted country are recognized and praised. Specialists in South Asian Studies often refer pejoratively to diasporic Indian Hindus in North America. In September 2001, Professor Witzel of Harvard University wrote regarding the Indian diaspora that, “Given the scholarly inclinations among the expatriate communities in North America we may expect a slew of new interpretations, in fact, a whole new cottage industry.”[19] This attitude led him to attack the Hindu parents of California in November 2005 when they were completing their negotiations with the California State Board of Education. Though the California textbook controversy is too detailed to document in its entirety, a summary of the situation will conclude this description of the unfortunate scholarly bias against Hindu practioners in the USA.

For several months, culminating in November 2005, informed and concerned groups of Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and Hindu-Americans participated in the textbook adoption process created by the state of California, working within the prescribed procedures of curriculum review. These groups met several times with members of the California Curriculum Commission and suggested recommendations regarding the Social Studies textbooks under consideration for adoption in the state. The passages identified in the textbooks, which were highlighted for editing, included negative, stereotypical, or erroneous descriptions about religious beliefs and practices in Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam.

In late September 2005, representatives of these groups attended the Curriculum Commission meetings in Sacramento. Prior to that meeting, the Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu organizations had carefully reviewed the textbooks under consideration. They had submitted documentation pointing out stereotypes and misrepresentations regarding their religious traditions.[20] The practitioners and their professional consultants cited certain sentences and paragraphs, which they determined contained erroneous, controversial, and/or racist material. There was concern that these statements, if left in the textbooks, would create xenophobic or ill-informed sensational images in the minds of adolescent students and also negatively impact the identity formation of Jewish-American, Hindu-American, and Muslim-American children in the USA’s multi-cultural classrooms.

The Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS) submitted 186 corrections and suggestions regarding representations of Judaism to ensure that the sections on Judaism in the textbooks accurately reflected Jewish sensibilities and did not inadvertently promote anti-Semitism. The Council on Islamic Education (CIE) pointed out subtle errors and proposed alternative wording for sentences in the sections on Islam.[21] The Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) and the Vedic Foundation (VF) provided feedback for about 170 proposed edits in the sections on Hinduism.

After many hours of testimony and the submission of detailed reviews recommending specific corrections, the members of the Curriculum Commission and the Content Review Panel (CRP) spent several weeks studying the suggested edits. They issued a notice on November 8th that stated the “Committee reviewed 684 edits, of which 499 were approved”. These editorial suggestions were recommended to the State Board of Education. Some of the edits were corrections of glaring mistakes, such as found in the Harcourt textbook that stated, “Hindi is written with the Arabic alphabet, which uses 18 letters that stand for sounds.”  This is an obvious error.  Hindi is written in the Devanagari alphabet that has 49 or 52 characters, depending on the language. Some other edits were more theological or sociological in nature. Numerous members from all the groups made two-minute presentations to underscore their recommendations. The committee was slated to meet again in Sacramento in early December to finalize the approved edits.

The Jewish and the Hindu analysts shared several concerns. One was the lack of a capitalization of the word “god” when used for Jewish or Hindu supreme beings. Reviewers from both the Institute for Curriculum Services and the Hindu Education Foundation objected to the use of the word “story” in reference to their scriptures, because, as the ICS wrote, it conveys the perspective that “the events described are fictitious.” HEF pointed out that one textbook included the phrase “gods and goddesses from popular Hindu stories,” and suggested that this terminology be replaced with “various forms of God from Hindu scriptures.”  One textbook stated that, “Dharma is a very important idea in Hinduism.” The Hindu advisors suggested that the word “idea” be replaced by “belief”. These are simple changes make the narrative richer, more informative, and more in accordance with the viewpoints of practitioners, not to mention more in line with perspectives of American students’ experiences.

The ICS warned the textbook writers that, “gratuitous material that paints Jews as wicked people who deserve to be punished is not suitable for a public school textbook. It brings in a very negative perspective of Jews that can promote anti-Semitism in the classroom and is in violation of adoption criteria … that requires neutrality among the religions.” The Hindu reviewers noted that there were several passages in the textbooks that trivialized their faith and openly mocked Hindu beliefs. This sort of unnecessarily humiliating treatment that was mentioned above from the Oxford University Press textbook that mocked Hindu beliefs about the Ramayana does not lead students in American classrooms towards a holistic and respectful understanding of religions in India. Similar to Hindu beliefs about Hanuman, Christians also believe that Jesus told his disciples that when he is remembered by two or more people, he is present. However, textbooks would never follow this statement with the caustic comment, “So look around–see the son of god?” Textbooks in India while, explaining Christianity, would never make such sarcastic remarks. Indians are very sensitive of their minority communities and Christians make up almost 3% of India’s population. Hindus, who comprise over 1% of the U.S. population, also deserve respect.

If American society were presented to children in India using the same sensationalist methodology with which India is presented to children in the USA, what would a child in India think of the United States of America?  In U.S. textbooks, India is frozen in time and a mostly negative appraisal of the past is stressed. After studying about India, American students often think Hindus burn their widows, starve girl babies, and worship rats. Using this same negative paradigm, children in India, after studying about the USA, would think that women often stand trail for witchcraft and must march in the streets for their basic rights and, especially, that African-Americans are still slaves. Luckily, textbooks in India don’t do this. It would be to our mutual benefit if textbooks in the USA didn’t fall into the trap of using outdated models and theories, and narrations with subtle and not-so-subtle biases.

There are several other examples from the California curriculum process where the citizens’ critiques emphasized the need for a more respectful portrayal of their religions. For example, the ICS suggested that narratives about Judaism should include a discussion of “ethical monotheism” as “Judaism’s key contribution to western thought and values.” Hindus were careful to fully define the word “Dharma”, which is central to their faith. Like the Jewish groups, the Hindu groups requested subtle changes, for instance that the heading “Hindu Beliefs About Multiple Gods” should be replaced with the less sensational and more accurate phrasing: “Hindu Beliefs About Various Forms of God.” The requests were realistic and sensitive. Hindus believe that though “God is one, the forms are many”. This is a universal belief within all schools of Hinduism.

Many of the requests made by the Council on Islamic Education (CIE) regarded the description of Christianity and recommended the addition of introductory phrases such as “according to the Bible” or “as paraphrased from the Gospels”. For example, the CIE requested that the segment in the textbook that discusses the Ten Commandments should state that they are “Paraphrased from Exodus 20:3-17.” The CIE contended that the “current wording does not make clear enough that the wording is paraphrased”. The CIE suggested that the textbooks needed “to add ‘according to the Bible’ in several places, for better attribution. For example, the textbook narrative should be in these terms: “After the death of King Saul, according to the Bible, David became king….”.

The requests from all three groups were both academically realistic and culturally sensitive and the Curriculum Committee reviewed them for academic veracity. For instance, this sentence appeared in the Holt textbook on page 211-212, “The people of Judah looked down on the Samaritans. They believed that God accepted only the sacrifices from the Temple in Jerusalem. Some did not believe that other people were God’s people, too.” The Jewish perspective, presented by the ICS commented “These statements are of highly questionable accuracy, totally devoid of context and inconsistent with the standards and criteria.” The Jewish advisors suggested alternative phrasing, “The Samaritans and the tribes of Judah lost touch with each other. Over time their religious practices developed separately, and they had little contact.  Today’s Judaism developed from the religious practices of the tribes of Judah.” The Curriculum Committee considered this edit to be reasonable. It was approved in the November 8th memorandum.

Because so few details about Hinduism are known by textbook writers and/or Social Studies teachers, unfortunately, many simplistic and easy to correct errors are often made. For instance, one textbook stated, “As time passed, Indians began to question how the world came into being. These questions led to changes in Brahmanism.” The suggested editorial correction was, “As time passed, Indians began to question how the world came into being. These questions led to changes in contemporary religious ideas.” This conveys more meaning to the student and is more in sync with Hindu self-concepts. “Brahmanism” is not a term that a Hindu would use to describe the Hindu religion, otherwise known as Sanatana Dharma. Brahmanism is a word coined during the colonial era and is rarely used by Hindus and in fact, is usually considered an insult. It is generally only used by the uninformed, or by Indians who write social history from a Marxist perspective.  Referring to Hinduism as “Brahmanism” is tantamount to calling Catholics “Papists”—it is derogatory. Ironically, there are those within the academic community who vied for retaining this insulting wording. These were among the hundreds of editorial changes accepted in the memo issued in the morning on Novemner 8th, 2005 by the Superintendent of the California Curriculum and Instruction Branch.

On November 8, Professor Witzel from Harvard University sent a ‘last-minute’ letter/petition to the California State Board of Education. He vehemently objected to the input from citizens—revealing a contemptuousness of the process inherent in the California textbook adoption procedures. Out of the three groups who participated in the curriculum review, he singled out the Hindus for condemnation—though, it is essential to note– he had not read any of the proposed editorial suggestions. Seemingly, the letter was sent electronically from the East Coast to a scholar in California, and was then delivered to the commissioners in Sacramento on the final afternoon of the meetings. Witzel’s objections enumerated in his petition were unsubstantiated assumptions. They revealed predisposed bias and contained provocatively racist slurs that dirtied the commentary. The letter came as a big surprise to the Curriculum Committee.

In the opening paragraph of his letter, professor Witzel stated that he was writing at the request of “over four dozen scholars” from around the world. Tellingly, the honorable professor was unaware of the textbook adoption procedures in California until November 5th, when he received an alarmist letter. In less than three days, Michael Witzel and his protégé Steve Farmer had gathered about fifty signatures from a group of their friends and colleagues to protest against the democratic functioning of the California textbook adoption process—all this, without ever having read even one of the suggested “edits”.  They targeted their assault specifically against Hindu-Americans, not against the Jewish and Islamic citizens of California. This last minute intervention reflects a political agenda, in contrast with accepted educational standards.

Three days earlier, on November 5th, Witzel had received an urgently worded letter from a graduate student concerning the California textbook adoption process. Then he and Farmer went into high gear to gather momentum, attempting to create an uproar. It is remarkable that in only three days, he sent his letter to the Curriculum Committee on behalf of dozens of the “most distinguished world experts in the field”.  All this was accomplished without any of the signatories ever having read the edits requested by the Hindu-American groups. This furor is indicative of the professor’s political agenda and has nothing to do with curriculum development, pluralism in California classrooms, or the beliefs of Hindus.

In his first paragraph, the professor urged the State Board of Education “to reject the demands of the nationalist Hindu (‘Hindutva’) groups that California textbooks be altered to conform to their religious-political views”.  It was startling to see this unexpected use of the term “Hindutva” applied to American citizens for three reasons. First, it is inapplicable and inappropriate—implying that these Hindus had “ill-concealed political agendas” is as absurd as linking Buddhism to bulimia! Secondly, most members of the California Curriculum Committee probably do not know much about political contests in India or the definition of “Hindutva” anymore than a member of an educational committee in a state on the west coast of India would understand the nuanced implications of the political term “Neo-con”.  Thirdly, Professor Witzel intended his use of the word “Hindutva” to be an insult, as in the American context the term “liberal” is often used as a pejorative by right wing ideologues. Professor Witzel employed the word repeatedly in an effort to slur the Hindu groups who participated in the textbook review process in California.

Though the term Neo-Con is tied up with the political use of Christianity, a scholar who is teaching Christianity would never assume that the Neo-Con view was the dominant model. So too, Hindutva is associated with the politicization of Hinduism in the Indian context–it is certainly not the only model of Hinduism for practicing Hindus. This is not a partisan political issue playing out in India’s democratic system– it concerns the education of American children. “Hindutva” is a term with political implications in India, but had nothing to do with efforts to eliminate racist wording and sensationalist and erroneous information in the textbooks under consideration in California.

“On behalf of [his] colleagues”, Professor Witzel called “attention to four points”: First, he again employed derogatory language referring to the “the agenda of the groups proposing these changes”—without ever having read through the proposed changes how could he determine the agenda of their authors?  I have a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, and professionally, I must emphatically insist that a researcher first investigate and analyze materials before offering judgment–otherwise it is just a blanket condemnation with no substance, based on assumptions. Unfortunately, this is the unsubstantiated, insulting approach employed in the baseless letter sent to the California State Board of Education by Dr. Witzel on November 8th.

In the second paragraph, the professor compared historiographical controversies in India with the processes in California, and decried the “long battle to prevent exactly these kinds of changes from finding a permanent place in history textbooks in India”.  But since he had not seen the recommend edits, he had absolutely no idea what “kinds of changes” were suggested in California! Importantly, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in New Delhi had used the same textbooks for over thirty years. These textbooks, which many Hindu-American parents read while in school in India decades ago, cannot be used as litmus to judge textbooks in California in 2006. The issues are very different and should not be conflated or politicized. California textbooks are updated every six years. Since they are not published by the state they are hopefully less susceptible to political whims than the NCERT textbooks.

The recent debate in India was not unlike the furor that erupted in the USA in the mid-nineties concerning the U.S. History Standards. In the USA, during the “History Wars” in the late 1980s and 90s, educators and intellectuals from the liberal left and conservative right fought tit for tat battles in the op-ed pages of major newspapers. This is the same sort of scenario that Professor Witzel mentioned concerning a similar controversy in Indian historiography that also saw “an extended battle in the Indian press”.  In the American context, as Sam Wineburg from the University of Washington colorfully described in his book, “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts”,

The choice between the two seemed absurd but this was exactly what the debate about national history standards had become, ‘George Washington or Bart Simpson,’ asked Senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash) during the 1995 Congressional debates on this subject: Which figure represents a ‘more important part of our Nation’s history for our children to study? To Gorton, the proposed national standards represented a frontal attack on American civilization, an ‘ideologically driven anti-Western monument to politically correct caricature.’ The Senate, in apparent agreement, rejected the standards 99-1.

The rancor that was exchanged during the debate over the U.S. National History Standards is indicative of the seriousness with which proponents of schools of thought in all nations view their mandates, as if the very survival of the state was at stake. Sam Wineburg amazed that, “In the barroom terms befitting such a brawl, those who wrote the standards were traitors, those who opposed them, racists”. Senator Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential candidate stated that the “national standards were the ‘handiwork of people worse than external enemies’.”  A similar partisan debate played out in India during the late nineties.

When he wrote to the SBE, Michael Witzel employed the same type of sensationalized condemnation, as did Bob Dole on the Senate floor while objecting to the U.S. History Standards. The vulgar use of this strategy against Hindu parents in California is uncalled for and reprehensible. Witzel wrote that revisions proposed for the Hindu contents of the textbooks “are not of a scholarly but of a religious-political nature”. Ironically, before writing the letter, as mentioned earlier, he had not read the proposed revisions which stressed a more universalist and humanist orientation. We must ask why a professor would make across-the-board, blanket condemnations without any documentation? This approach goes against all academic sensibilities.

The petition on Harvard University letterhead stated that the editorial changes “do not reflect the views of the majority of specialist [sic] on ancient Indian history nor of mainstream Hindus.” Professor Witzel’s allegation that the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation discriminate against “tens of millions of non-Hindu Indians” is ludicrous, inapplicable, intentionally insulting and misleading. This libelous accusation is tantamount to accusing Zero Mostel of destabilizing the nation. Professor Witzel warned the Curriculum Commission that if they approved the edits presented by the Hindu-American groups, “it would trigger an immediate international scandal.” Such fear mongering is reminiscent of the recently disregarded “color-coded threat advisory system” of the Department of Homeland Security.

In his fourth and final paragraph, the professor confesses that he obtained all the signatures in only “48 hours” due to massive emailing to his colleagues. He again maintains that “the proposed textbook changes are unscholarly [and] politically and religiously motivated”. All this, and he never reviewed even one of the proposed textbook changes before leading his academic charge against Hindu-Americans. He concluded his letter with another threat that if California’s State Board of Education accepts the textbook edits suggested by Hindu-Americans, it “will lead without fail to an international scandal”. He did not express the same hysteria concerning the changes requested by the Jewish or Muslim groups. His unsupported tirade singled out one group simply because they practice the Hindu religion, not because their editorial suggestions were invalid—after all, he hadn’t read them!

The letter from Witzel and 46 of his colleagues contained nothing academically specific. Certainly, as a scholar of South Asian Studies, he would not suggest that the textbooks retain this error, “The people of the Indus Valley developed a civilization that lasted for over 500 years.” He would have to agree with the recommended edit that, “The people of the Indus Valley developed a civilization that lasted for over 1300 years.” Correcting such errors is not political and has nothing to do with Hindutva or Neocons, anymore that the changes requested by the Jewish representatives are examples Zionism or the recommended edits from the Islamic group were representative of al Qaeda.

Professor Witzel’s last-minute petition caused the officials of the California State Board of Education to baulk. The SBE retroactively appointed Witzel and two of his chosen colleagues to serve in an oversight capacity on a hastily created Second Content Review Panel (CRP). They were empowered to re-approve or discard the editorial suggestions from the Hindu educational foundations that had been previously approved by the California Curriculum Committee. The members of this last-minute CRP appeared flippant as they reviewed the textbook edits.  One textbook stated that “The Ramayana [was] written later than the Mahabharata,” though all Hindus know that the Ramayana was written “prior to the Mahabharata”. This correction was dismissed by Witzel and colleagues who were not only critical of the “motives” of the Hindus who had suggested this chronological correction, but dismissive of the intellectual capacity of sixth grade students. In their review of the recommended edits, Witzel’s group wrote, “Who in Sixth Grade cares which epic was ‘written’ first?” Hindus care, just as Christians and Jews would care that the textbooks noted that Genesis was written before Corinthians or Muslims would care that the Qu’ran was written before the Hadiths. Professor Witzel’s committee was flippant about Hindus’ basic beliefs.

The people who are qualified to teach about Hinduism in American universities often have an inherent and personal bias against the religion and culture about which they are ostensibly experts. In 1996, I spoke with a professor of political science who has worked at several universities in the US. He is definitely an academic whom no one would consider to be even remotely communal or Hindu-centric in any sense whatsoever, yet, he told me that “in American academia it is politically incorrect to treat Hinduism in a positive light and it is taboo to deal negatively with Islam.” Afterwards, he insisted very adamantly that I should not use his name. He did not want to be quoted saying something so politically incorrect. The insulation of the Ivory Tower of Hindu Studies from serious interactions with practioners of Hinduism reminds me of a statement quoted in the New Yorker, about the current Bush administration’s attitude concerning the situation in Iraq, “When we say that the corridors of power are insulated, is it that the officials aren’t receiving the information, or is it because the construct under which they’re operating doesn’t even allow them to absorb it?”[22] In the case of the changing paradigm in Hinduism Studies—the message is out there…. if the old school will not listen, they will simply gradually give way to a new generation.

 

[1] A phrase popularized on Sulekha.

[2] http://david-freedholm.sulekha.com/blog/post/2003/02/women-and-hinduism-in-u-s-textbooks.htm

[3] http://www.mssu.edu/projectsouthasia/tsa/VIN1/Rosser.htm

[4] When using the word diaspora in the context of the Hindu diaspora, the small case d is used to differentiate between the physical dispersal of a people or groups such as Hindus and the historical and symbolic Diaspora in the Jewish tradition. The word is used in a generic sense, with due respect to its original symbolic importance.

[5] Sankrant Sanu. Are Hinduism studies prejudiced? A look at Microsoft Encarta, Sept. 2002: http://sankrant.sulekha.com/blog/post/2002/09/are-hinduism-studies-prejudiced-a-look-at-microsoft.htm

[6] This is well documented by the Gandhian historian Dharampal in The Beautiful Tree that draws extensively on the reports of English officers to document the destruction of the traditional pre-colonial educational system. In the early 1800’s the British Governor Thomas Munro reported that in the Madras Presidency “every village had a school” and that “there is one school for every 1000 of the population” Literacy was the norm in 18 century India until 150 years of colonial occupation destroyed indigenous education.

[7] Anatole G Mazour and John M Peoples. World History: People and Nations, Harcourt, Brace, Javonovich: 1990.

[8] The History Teacher 32:1 (November 1998), 17-32.

[9] Ideology and Race in India’s Early History, in “World History Connected” (Vol. 3, No. 2, May 2006) http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/whc/3.2/manian.html#_edn1

[10] See the article written by 14 year old Trisha Pasricha of Houston, TX, “How US Schools Misrepresent Hinduism!” http://www.hvk.org/articles/1003/0.html

[11] For Islam, see: The Council on Islamic Education (CIE), founded in 1990 http://www.cie.org/

[12]http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/31/books/31conn.html?ex=1264914000&en=6ebe024aa91cfc15&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland

[13] http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2004/aprmay/courtright.html

[14] Amazon.com lists 12 books when one searches “Islamopbobia” in the title. See: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=&author=&select-author=field-author-like&title=islamophobia&select-title=field-title&subject=&select-subject=field-subject&field-publisher=&field-isbn=&node=&field-binding=&field-age=&field-language=&field-dateop=before&field-datemod=0&field-dateyear=2009&chooser-sort=rank%21%2Bsalesrank&mysubmitbutton1.x=32&mysubmitbutton1.y=9 (Accessed on January 8th 2006.) But no book titles with “Hinduphobia show up. A Google search on Islamophobia produces nearly 1.2 million sites, while a similar search on Hinduphobia produces only 1700 sites and most of those point to the same websites. Wickipedia has a large amount written on Islamophobia but no section on Hinduphobia. (There is a section on “anti-Hindu” which is based to a considerable extent on the writings of Malhotra and others who have been inspired to take up this issue very recently.)

[15] http://www.hinduamericanfoundation.org/reports.htm#hatewatch07

[16] http://www.hafsite.org/hatereport/  (Feb 2007)

[17] In the last 2000 years, there are perhaps no more than 6-7 recorded instances of the rite being performed, and the last was performed at Jaipur in 1716. According to the Dharmashastras, it is in the category `Kalivarjya’ and therefore its performance in modern times is prohibited by several Hindu texts themselves. See: FUCHS, Stephen. The Vedic Horse Sacrifice in its Culture-Historical Relations. Inter-India Publications, New Delhi: 1996.

[18] Agarwal pointed to a reply to this anti-Hindu workbook is given at: http://www.infinityfoundation.com/ECITnehletterframeset.htm

[19] http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/R&J.htm

[20] I assisted the groups involved with this process and during the summer of 2005, I reviewed several 6th grade Social Studies textbooks up for adoption in California where I found innumerable problems. Many of the graphics about Hinduism were outlandishly wrong, such as the drawing of King Ashoka, a north Indian ruler from the third century BC, who was represented in the textbook wearing an elaborate costume from somewhere like Medieval Turkmenistan. Or, the photograph of an elderly Muslim gentleman, wearing an Islamic skullcap, with his hands raised in the traditional Islamic gesture for offering namaz (prayers), but the caption stated that the picture was a “Brahmin at prayer”. Interestingly, this identical mislabeled picture appeared in several of the other 6th grade textbooks. This absurd error is no different than a textbook showing a photo of a Catholic priest serving mass at a church and labeling it “A Muslim priest offers prayers at a mosque”.

[21] Islam is covered in seventh grade textbooks.

[22] Betrayed- The Iraqis who trusted America the most, by George Packer, The New Yorker, Monday 26 March 2007, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/26/070326fa_fact_packer

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