New York, March 14: The member of Congress of United States Tulsi Gabbard slammed the CNN broadcasting channel for its new show "Believer" by saying that is misrepresenting Hinduism.
However, the criticism from Tulsi Gabbard came immediately through the series of tweets after a show featured a small sect of Hinduism called the Aghoris of India, a cannibalistic group that worships Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction. She said in her tweet, “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.”
Taking on the CNN channel she tweeted, “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 didn't 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, 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. Our nation celebrates religious pluralism and diversity. 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,” Gabbard, the first Hindu-American member of Congress, wrote.
Importantly, it was not only Tulsi Gabbard but also Shalabh Kumar, who made significant contributions to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, as well as the U.S. India Political Action Committee expressed his disappointment over this show. Shalabh Kumar said, “this is a disgusting attack on Hinduism”.
Notably, the Hindu Americans were also left shocked by the extremely stereotypical portrayal of them in a latest CNN television series titled "Believer". In the episode of “Believer,” host Reza Aslan was seen eating a cooked human brain with the group. Aslan later wrote on Facebook, “Want to know what a dead guy’s brain tastes like? Charcoal. It was burnt to a crisp! #Believer.”
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said, "The episode focuses on the Aghori sect in Varanasi, India, whose sadhus deliberately appear and behave in ways alien to common Hindu practice, all in an effort to transcend dualities and realize spiritual oneness. Though renunciation is a key part of Hindu practice broadly speaking, Aghori babas are the epitome of a spiritual occult and stand apart from other sadhus in most ways. The deeply mystical sometimes revolting practices of Aghoris, a sect comprising the smallest minority of Hindu sampradayas (spiritual traditions), has long invited the spotlight of foreign journalists. And too often, that spotlight has not been kind.”
“Religious literacy in the United States about Hinduism, as every Hindu American knows, is woefully inadequate. The Pew Religious Knowledge Survey of 2013 found that only 36% of Americans could answer a single question about Hinduism: Whether Shiva and Vishnu were deities associated with Hinduism. When the knowledge deficit is so stark, and minority communities are facing a rise in hate incidents across the US, a Hindu American was killed and Sikh American was shot in likely hate crimes in the past week why would Aslan and CNN sensationalize the Aghoris as a primetime introduction to the faith of a billion Hindus, most of whom have never seen or met an Aghori?”
“And the initial promotional materials and trailers on CNN include the titillating, with a banner headline “CANNIBALS” to a revolting scene of a Sadhu flinging urine. But there is also a trailer that describes the spiritual significance of Aghori practice, core beliefs, and scenes of a tranquil school where children of all castes and creeds were being educated by practicing Hindus living the Hindu Aghori faith of loving, serving, and caring without discrimination.”
HAF’s Director of Communications, Mat McDermott, met personally met Aslan and raised the question of whether Believer would showcase an episode covering Aslan’s own faith, Islam. Aslan informed him that the producers originally intended to shoot an episode featuring the Ashura festival in Pakistan. Everything was scripted, scouted, and ready to go. But no one would insure the production to shoot — at least at a price that didn’t break the show’s budget. The episode was abandoned. If and when there’s a second series of Believer, Aslan assured that Islam would definitely be included, the HAF statement added.
Meanwhile, Aslan responded on Facebook that Aghoris are an “extreme Hindu sect” and “are not representative of Hinduism.”