Recognizing Hinduphobia – A Canadian Perspective (Part 9)

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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Hinduphobia in Academia/Universities

Academic Hinduphobia is a problem for Hindus that result from the “Eurocentric hegemonic control over Hindu religious studies, and the power to categorize and demonize Hindus”[1]

In other words, the narrative about Hinduism and Hindus in academia is mostly controlled by scholars who are Hinduphobic in that they blame everything wrong with Indian social, economic, and political systems on directly on Hindus and Hinduism. It’s as absurd as blaming everything wrong with the social, political, and economic systems in British on Christianity.

Due to an academic cartel that controls what is researched, written, and who is hired, dharmic indigenous Hindu voices who seek to present an alternate view or challenge the hegemony are blocked from entering the academia or the publication sphere.

A book, Invading the Sacred, 2007[2], based on the work of American Indian scholar, Rajiv Malhotra, gives an excellent overview, with numerous examples, to explain ‘academic Hinduphobia’, which continues to dominate the academia today. This book meticulously chronicles and analyzed the works of American Indology scholar by exposing how their writing eroticize, caricaturize, and misrepresent Hindu gurus and deities using Freudian psychoanalysis. The acceptance of such farcical ‘atrocity literature’ and fake scholarly work by America’s top universities are incredibly disturbing and distressing to Hindus. These works on Hindu culture are deeply hurtful to Hindu children, often leading to the internalization of racism and self-hate.

Some academics have used, and continue to use, ‘academic freedom’ to protect themselves from criticism and accountability. Still, others have claimed that Hinduism does not exist as a valid, cohesive religion because it lacks a single book or authority that can claim to speak for it. These arguments are extremely Hinduphobic because they resort to weaponizing the open, free architecture of Hinduism, which allows freedom for Hindus to choose an individualized path called Swadharma, to attack Hinduism’s roots and very existence.

Any cursory search on Google or an academic search engine will show that most research on Hindus is on the negative aspects of the Indian economy, politics, or society: poverty, class divisions, cows, women, minorities, etc., under the banner of human rights. Hundreds of South Asian departments teach millions of students are taught about the negative aspects of Indian society while appropriating the positive contributions of Hindu civilizations, like its philosophy, music, art, science, medicine, Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation, to name a few, into western universalism (the idea that west is the vault that holds all the wealth of world civilization).[3]

The negative impact of Hindus being blamed for all the social, political, and economic ills of India, and even the Nazi and other supremacist ideology (as in context to the Swastika), reverberates here in Canada. For example, The University of Toronto School of South Asian Studies regularly holds conferences and talks that create and reinforce one-sided negative, Hinduphobic, and anti-India narratives. Recent events include propaganda of false information against the removal of Article 370 in Kashmir (to remove barriers to development and give protection to its minorities) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (which gives citizenship to persecuted Hindu, Christian, and Sikh refugees living in India who fled from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan). On October 22, 2020, there was a Webinar held to discuss how Muslims in Kashmir were being oppressed, during which the presenters never acknowledged the genocide and forced expulsive of over 250,000 Kashmir Hindus and the historical oppression of Dalits and Sikhs in Kashmir.[4] Instead, the presenters asked Canada to impose sanctions against India.

In October 2021, the Toronto Public Library and Ryerson University, Faculty of Arts sponsored a talk by well-known Hinduphobic French author, Christophe Jaffrelot, titled Modi’s India, How Hindu Nationalism has Eroded the world’s largest democracy. Hindus were concerned because, as a public institution funded by taxes, the TPL had not held seminars on any other countries which experience oppressive regimes, of which there are many that are not even democracies. The Hindu community started an online petition,[5] wrote to the library head, and even had a virtual meeting with her to express their concerns about the one-sided, biased presentation of India and lack of objectivity. We are currently still in the process of negotiations. As expected, in a classical Hinduphobic response, members of the Canadian academia were quick to advocate on behalf of Jaffrelot under the banner of freedom of speech. They dismissed the ordinary Hindus attempting to have a fair debate using epithets such as ‘bhakts’ (a slur used to dismiss a Hindu’s valid questions and concerns by calling him a fanatical Modi supporter), nationalists, Hindu supremacist, and or extremists [6].

In another incident, the city of Burnaby, without consultation with the local Hindu community, declared Sept. 5 as Gauri Lankesh Day by the city of Burnaby in 2021. The wording of the declaration is deeply insulting to Hindus and India. The declaration claimed that the journalist ‘challenged superstition” in Indian society, plagued by ‘religious fanaticism, discrimination, and bigotry. This was done while the murder of Gauri, an Indian journalist who was killed by unidentified men, was still under investigation, and her death did not appear to be related to her role as a journalist. The Hindu Forum Canada sent a letter of complaint on behalf of the Hindu sent to the Mayor of Burnaby[7] and was assured that the major’s office would review the matter.

In April 2019, Hindus protested against Toronto’s Noor Islamic Center for holding a one-sided Anti-Hindu propaganda event in which one of the invited academic speakers called Hindus’ holy book Ramayana “oppressive and elitist”. Earlier, in an earlier interfaith dialogue, Noor Center’s Khadija Kanji had referred to the Hindu Trinity of deities (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) as “rapists.”[8]

Overall, Academic Hinduphobia represents a significant overarching psychological burden on Hindus to be constantly vigilant about media misrepresentations about Hindus and be ready to defend against the distortion and disinformation propaganda in academia.

For some, the oft-needed knee-jerk reactions on social media can be draining and painful. For others, who work on organizing a well-thought-out response, the analogy of the Hindu David fighting the Hegemonic Goliath of media and academia is appropriate.[9]

Academic Hinduphobia is an issue that Canadian Hindus would like the human rights commission to address, at par with how it is dealt with respect to Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-black and anti-indigenous hate, homophobia, and so on. Hindus wonder why such irresponsible attacks on the Hindu religion are allowed so freely and openly without consequences.

  1. Rampersad, P, (2007) Exposing Academic Hinduphobia, pg.84, in Invading the Sacred, Rupa, available online at
  2. This book is available for a free download at
  3. Read here to understand the idea of western universalism
  5. Details of our complaints are provided in the petition
  6. Read here to understand why such terms are Hinduphobic slurs
  7. Read the letter from Hindu Forum Canada here on Twitter
  8. The protest by Hindus was covered in media by Tarek Fateh
  9. A talk on the term David and Goliath

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.

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