Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri and Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) are helping promote Hinduism’s universal message of pluralism and diversity in the U.S., an official of the Hindu American foundation told a gathering of in Vienna, Va., Friday evening. Jay Kansara, HAF’s Director of Government Relations, and other officials told a gathering of invited guests from the Washington DC area about the works of the HAF since its foundation in 2004. Kansara said the HAF was among the partner organizations under the umbrella of Indian American Community Foundation and had assisted the IACF in organizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi historic public gathering in Madison Square, attended by 33 members of the U.S. Congress and one state governor.
Kansara pointed out the foundation success in having House Resolution 417 withdrawn that targeted Hindus for perpetrating communal violence, and called for continuing an American visa ban against Modi. He said because of the relentless efforts of the HAF “special interest groups” can no longer target India and Hindus. The audience heard that a Jewish organization of a comparable size had a budget that was 55 times more than that of HAF, while a similar size Muslim organization budget was also 50 percent more than that of HAF.
Kansara said Miss America and Rep. Gabbard (D-HI), who he said are HAF members, for helping debunk many of the myths about Hinduism. Nina Davuluri, who gave the evening’s keynote address at an HAF event last fall, discussed her journey as the first ever Hindu and Indian American to win the Miss America contest, while describing her experiences growing up as a religious and ethnic minority. “I remember the first time I even realized I was different in terms of my religion was when I was in elementary school,” said Davuluri. “A classmate of mine came up to me and said, ‘Do you believe in Jesus?’ and I said, ‘Well, no but I believe in God.’ And he said, ‘Well you’re going to hell.’ I went home and told this to my mother…And we had this conversation about religion and spirituality and how people believe in different things, but at the core of it, at the heart of it, all of us are one.” Kansara said Congresswoman Gabbard has been a strong proponent of the Foundation’s work in the areas of human rights and religious freedom. The meeting observed one minute of silence for Hindu girls being abducted, raped and forcibly married in Pakistan. Others who spoke includedSheetal Shah, senior HAF director, and SriVani Ganti, director of member and chapter services. The HAF meeting also observed one minute of silence for Hindu minor girls in Pakistan, who face abductions, rape, forcible conversions and are married off to elderly men five times their age. Every month around 25 Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, according to the premier Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.