CNN’s broadcast (Sunday March 5, 2017) on Hinduism by a so-called religious scholar did disservice to the cause of peace and understanding. With obviously no knowledge of Sanskrit or Tamil, he had the gall to report on Hinduism to a public already naive about Non-Christian religions, and can hardly distinguish a Sikh from a Muslim, at a time when anti-immigrant passions are running high, prompted largely by the extremists of the religion to which this supposed scholar is affiliated. His crass and callous snap shots of an enormously complex and multifaceted religion could be charitably interpreted as arising from superficial book knowledge, and in more sinister terms they can be interpreted as a wanton effort to ignite anti-Hindu sentiments in the country.
The program was a downright affront to a great religious tradition which, unlike the tradition to which this interpreter of religion may be more familiar, preaches respect and reverence for all spiritual paths. India, with its overwhelming Hindu majority is home to millions of others from different faiths, and has been so for centuries.
The United Nations has thought it fit to include in its motto a quote from a Hindu poet on humanism. The scriptures of Hinduism are reckoned among the most poetic and philosophical in the world: from Schopenhauer to Emerson, and countless others, informed thinkers have paid homage to the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The deep insights of Hindu thinkers into the ultimate nature of reality have found resonance in sophisticated modern physics: The CERN in Geneva has acknowledged this.
The CNN “expert” on Hinduism is obviously ignorant of all this. His expertise seems to be in projecting pictures that titillate the superficial, ill-informed, and perhaps malicious tourist. This show was regarded as the height of public affront to a billion people. Whether President Trump’s characterization of CNN as a purveyor of fake-news was appropriate or not in the context in which it was made, it was certainly so in this case.
It is important to emphasize that humanity’s cultural legacy is vast. Every nation and group has created art and music, plays and poetry, science and philosophy, dance and delicacy. Thanks to the marvels of technology transfer of information has become much easier. Through our powerful modes of communication it is not impossible to educate the masses on whatever is grand and glorious in every culture and civilization, in every race and religion of the human family. We have the resources to educate and enlighten humanity as a whole. We can make people better understand and appreciate the cultural richness in all groups.
Contrary to the hopes and wishful dreams of humanists that is not what is happening. Instead, we seem to be heading towards a world of mutual hate and suspicion, devoid of scant respect for the traditions of others, displaying religious intolerance of the most abject kind. One reason is programs like this. It is most unfortunate that a respectable medium like CNN did not recognize the motives of this “scholar”.
We are at the threshold of an age of narrow nationalism and sectarian bigotry. There are at least two reasons for this throw-back to religious intolerance. One is the inability or unwillingness of religious leaders to preach basic tolerance to their followers; the other is the disservice done by the media by focusing on what is wrong and grotesque in various faith systems. No religion is spotless but all religions have their nobler and uplifting aspects too. Responsible groups should know which to emphasize to whom and when.
I raise my voice of protest not only as a member of the Hindu tradition, but equally as a member of the human family who is alarmed by the divisive trends that are poisoning the world today; and by the fact that a news-providing institution like CNN would air a program of this misleading kind. I can only hope that they will not ask an ignorant Hindu to interpret Islam to the American public.
8 March 2017