Reza Aslan’s “Believer”- An Exhibit of Unconcealed Hinduphobia

UNITED STATES, March 9, 2017 (Indiafacts by Prashant Parikh): From colonial times, Indians have been characterized as predominantly savage, otherworldly, uncivilized, and by implication, in need of civilizing. These long perpetuated portrayals of Hindus did not remain merely confined to voluminous tomes and academic cliques, but rapidly percolated into the wider pop-cultural domain. This is quite evident through films such as “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, portraying Hindus as a bloodthirsty, violently ritualistic cult, with a penchant for consuming live snakes, and “chilled monkey brains” served on a chalice–intact head and all. Indeed, few communities have been subjected to this level of ridicule, vilification, exaggerated caricatures, and miscast definitions through media and academia, as the Hindus have.

In CNN’s “Believer”, host, Reza Aslan, approaches the topic of Hinduism from a similar perspective, presenting not only a contemptuously scornful, patronizing and exoticized view, but also negligently misrepresenting the Hindu traditions in his commentary and voice-over.

Through this article, I wish to address two areas. First, being a general critique of the content, and second, the deleterious consequences such portrayals would have on the Hindu community- especially the diaspora living abroad. Now, there is also no denying that the many topics touched upon here lend themselves to different interpretations, even within the broader section of the Hindu community. Pluralism in viewpoints is not the problem. My concern, and that of many Hindus who have voiced their disapproval over the documentary, is that Aslan has consistently managed to cherry pick only the most egregious of interpretations, made sweeping generalizations, and painted a skewed, sordid and unflattering image of Hindus, in what ought to have been a respectable overview of the Hindu culture for an international audience. The sensationalism on display here would befit a “reality show”, not an expert documentary. The bar of journalistic integrity set by CNN sinks very low, indeed.

Much more of this in-depth article, including excerpted videos from the episode hosted on the CNN website, at “source”.