Recognizing Hinduphobia – A Canadian Perspective (Part 3)

This is one of the 10-part series of posts is based on the author’s detailed brief for the Human Rights Commission of Ontario highlighting the rising anti-Hindu sentiment in Canada in general, and Ontario in particular.

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What is Hinduphobia?

Definitions and use of the term Hinduphobia, for anti-Hindu hate, first emerged in the 1866 century during British colonial rule in India to refer to prejudice against Hindus by British and some Muslims. It was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as recently in mid-2021 Hinduphobia as “The dislike of or prejudice of Hinduism and Hindus. Origins late 19th C.” (Sarah Gates, 2020). Between these two dates (1866 and 2020), there has been much churning within, and outside, the Hindu community about Hinduphobia and related terms.

The article by Australian researcher Sarah Gates provides details of the use of the term Hinduphobia from 1866, the colonial era to modern India, until 1997[1].

The term Hinduphobia re-emerged in a book titled, Invading the Sacred (2007) [2] which chronicles the research on academic Hinduphobia, as championed by a Hindu American scholar Rajiv Malhotra. There is a section later in this paper under ‘Academic Hinduphobia’ that provides more details on this issue that dominates the narrative about Hindus in academia and media.

Many questions have been asked about the relevance of the term ‘phobia’ in Hinduphobia. Hinduism scholar, Jeffery Long, explains [3]:

Like any phobia, Hinduphobia is an intense and deeply rooted aversion—fear and hatred— in this case, of Hindus and Hinduism. As such, Hinduphobia is a non-rational phenomenon. That is, it is not the result of a process of reasoning or thoughtful reflection based on experience. It is a feeling that occurs at a visceral level rather than at the refined level of the intellect, though it can manifest as a set of intellectual claims that portray Hindus and Hinduism in a negative light.

 

More recently some Hindu scholars and human rights advocates have preferred to use the term ‘Hindumesia’ to point to the historical, and current efforts, towards the complete elimination of Hindus and Hinduism. Hindudvesha (which means aversion to Hinduism in Sanskrit) is another term that is being used. Significant documentation of systemic Hinduphobia can be found at the website Hindudvesha.org. For example, the recent Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference of Sept 10-12, 2021 in effect was a call for the ‘dismantling of Hinduism’ In discussing the implications of the conference, Professor Makarand Paranjape of Delhi University observed that “While targeting the un- or ill-defined termed Hindutva, the real peril is Hindu-hatred masquerading as intellectual activism. Hindu-hatred, let us not forget, may lead to Hinducide” [4]

The latest definition of Hinduphobia was developed by Hindu students and academics in 2021 at a conference [5] held at Rutgers University, USA:

Hinduphobia is a set of antagonistic, destructive, and derogatory attitudes and behaviors towards Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Hindus that may manifest as prejudice, fear, or hatred.” In other words, Hinduphobia is a negative visceral reaction, prejudice, and discrimination towards Hindus.

Most Canadians are unaware that the Hindu civilization in India has survived 1000 years of colonization in which several genocides happened in which millions of innocent Hindus were killed for being Hindus. Importantly, there is and has been, a taboo in media and academia, and society in general, against speaking of Hindu genocide or oppression. The reasons for this coverup are complex, mostly due to Hinduphobia in the academia and media that has historically denied Hindu oppression and genocide. In addition, in part due to fear, shame, and internalized racism, Hindus themselves have refrained from speaking of the horror, as a way to cope, and move forward as a country and civilization. The recent film, Kashmir Files (2022) [6] produced in India gives a glimpse into this phenomenon of silence in the face of genocide. The film reminds and underlies the need for a process of truth and reconciliation, including the public discussion of Hinduphobia and Hindumesia, in India and abroad, as in Canada.

In summary, in the context of Canada, Hinduphobia is rooted in prejudiced or misinformed ideas and thoughts about Hindus or Hinduism which can manifest as hurtful or hateful speech, overt or covert discriminatory actions which cause pain to Hindus and harm to the Hindu community. [7]


Citations
  1. https://www.academia.edu/49564097/Use_of_the_Term_Hinduphobia_1866_1997
  2. The book is available online at https://rajivmalhotra.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Invading-the-Sacred-Final.pdf
  3. Long, J, 2017, Reflections on Hinduphobia: A perspective from a scholar practitioner, Pg 797, retrieved online at https://www.esamskriti.com/essays/pdf/17%20Reflections%20on%20Hinduphobia%20PDF.pdf
  4. https://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/columns/2021/aug/25/hatred-of-hindutva-may-lead-to-hindumisia-2349292.html
  5. https://understandinghinduphobia.org/working-definition/
  6. Trailer of the film, The Kashmir Files https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10811166/ and link to a letter of complaint to Toronto Star for its Hinduphobic coverage of it https://twitter.com/canada_hindu/status/1518605501327626241?s=20&t=FnMSQwKHVkgfuEo_ofIiuQ
  7. To learn more about Hinduphobia please go to https://www.hinduamerican.org/hinduphobia

Go directly to specific parts of this series
  1. Part 1: Hinduphobia in Ontario and Canada – Introduction
  2. Part 2: Why HRC does not fully address the problem of Hinduphobia
  3. Part 3: What is Hinduphobia?
  4. Part 4: A Theoretical framework to understand Hinduphobia
  5. Part 5: Generalized Hinduphobia
  6. Part 6: Appropriation and lack of acknowledgment of positive contributions of Hindu civilization
  7. Part 7: Canada’s White Only History policy: overcoming a legacy of Racism
  8. Part 8: Hinduphobia in the Media
  9. Part 9: Hinduphobia in Academia/Universities
  10. Part 10: Examples of Hinduphobic Incidents in Canada

Dr. Ragini Sharma, PhD, has worked for over 25 years with individuals, families and communities of diverse backgrounds to support their human dignity and for their economic, social and political rights. She is a passionate educator of Hinduism and has represented Hindu perspective at numerous interfaith events.